BioMONSTAAAR's Heating and Cooling System

Introduction: BioMONSTAAAR's Heating and Cooling System

Based on DIY aquarium chillers (e.g. – used to keep shrimp and axolotl happy), a Peltier thermal electric cooler (TEC) system was designed; to provide temperature stability inside BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor and allow the reactor temperature to be adjusted. The ability to adjust temperature makes the bioreactor (1) adaptive to the optimal growing temperatures of different microorganisms and (2) allows the exploration of the effects of temperature fluctuations on cultures inside the reactor.
The listed parts, when assembled create a heating and cooling (H&C) system capable of removing or adding heat to BioMONSTAAAR’s 14L prototype bioreactor. The system was modeled and designed to regulate and maintain the internal temperature of the bioreactor from 15 to 35°C (59-95°F ), when the reactor is housed at room temperature (20°C or 68 °F). Although internal temperatures above 35°C will likely be achievable.
A Peltier based system has the ability to both heat and cool using the same components, because the direction of heat transfer is analogous to the polarity of the current powering the Peltier. Furthermore, a Peltier based system is much smaller than a compressed refrigerant (e.g. – R-410A) system. Peltier elements have no moving parts, are reliable, and do not require maintenance (more on Peltier TEC). BioMONSTAAAR’s H&C system components are controlled with a custom electronic control board.

Parts List:

One heat sink(35$) with a contact plate surface area of at least 40x40mm
One water block (10$) with a surface 40x40mm surface area
One 40x40mm Peltier ($60) Thermal Electric Cooler/Heater
One 24V 15A 360W Regulated Power Supply ($30)
One 24V Water Pump ($25)
Plywood or acrylic to secure parts
Sheet metal screws, in this case #8 x 5/8” screws were used
One square foot rubber foam to insulate water block
Two thick nylon washers 5/16 x 9/16
Two machine screws M3-.5 x 12mm

Step 1: Choosing a Peltier Module

Experimentation is necessary to obtain a Peltier TEC that will provide the heating and cooling ability desired. A description of a Pelier based aquarium cooler provided some guidance for our experiments. Two types of experiments were run to determine the rate of heat loss or gain from the bioreactor.
In both experiments, the bioreactor was almost completely filled with distilled water (to the likely maximum operating height), and a digital thermometer was used to measure changes in the water temperature over time. The two types of experiments are as follow:
1) To determine the heating power the H&C system must use to maintain the temperature inside the reactor, record changes in the temperature of the water inside the reactor over time when the water temperature is a few degrees above ambient temperature.
2) To determine the cooling power the H&C system must achieve to maintain the temperature record changes in the temperature of the water inside the reactor over time when the water temperature is equal to the ambient temperature and the growth lamps are on.
These experiments provide an idea of how much heat is transferred, to or from the water, in scenarios that will occur when the reactor is operational and the temperature must be held constant.
The rate of heat loss, when the water inside the tank is above the ambient temperature and the lights are turned off, is about 3.6W. Prior to these experiments, the rate of heat loss was modeled, using empirical equations found in heat transfer text books and online. Plugging in the conditions of our experiment into the math model predicted a heat loss rate of 4W, which is close to the experimental value of 3.6W! These experiments helped validate the model, which is used in early stages of bioreactor design.
BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor is a photobioreactor that uses lamps to provide growth light for cultures inside the reactor (e.g. – algae). After setting up four 15” linear lamps, placing the lamps against the glass bioreactor, equidistantly from each other. Starting with water inside the reactor, at room temp, the lamps were turned on, and the increase in temperature inside the reactor was recorded. After data for
two experiments were collected, the water inside the reactor was determined to have gained approximately 30W of thermal energy due to the lamps. So, the H&C system must provide approximately 30W of cooling when the lights are on to maintain a constant temperature inside the reactor.
The H&C system is designed not only to maintain temperature but also decrease or increase the temperature to a desired set point in a reasonable amount of time. With a Peltier based system, one should designed for cooling first, because the Peltier has less capability to cool than heat. The design should allow a bioreactor operator to cool the internal contents of the reactor at a reasonable rate. For BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor a decrease of 0.1°C/min or 6°C/hr was targeted; based on the maximum amount of water that will be in the reactor 100W off cooling power will be necessary. Thus, the maximum amount of cooling power needed (lamps on) is approximately 130W. Similarly, approximately 104W of heating will be required (lamps off) to increase the temperature at the same rate. There are unavoidable heat losses that reduce the H&C system ability, overdesigning the system is wise. Therefore, a Peltier that can approximately 200W of heat transfer should be adequate for BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor.
High power Peltiers are best found through online suppliers. There are several Peltier suppliers but very few of the suppliers had the dimension and power required. After some searching, a 40x40mm Peltier TEC with a max heat transfer of 225W from Custom Thermoelectric was chosen. Peltier TEC modules lose efficiency when run at voltage/current greater than the maximum specified, because the hot side becomes too hot and interferes with the cold side, reducing the Peltier’s ability to transfer heat. It is not detrimental to run the Peltier at the max voltage/current specified, but rather the Peltier won't be efficient (Thanks to Andy from Custom Thermoelectric for his guidance). Having a good heat sink, will let us get close to max voltage. The Peltier module is best run at 80% or below the maximum voltage/current. Heat transfer does not increase much above 80% power, as seen in the Peltier specifications. The Peltier at 80% power, in ideal conditions, should provide 180W. Ultimately conditions are not ideal compared to manufactures specification and the system must H&C system must be tested. However, the above methodology provided sound guidance in selecting a Peltier that should provide BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor temperature control.

Step 2: Modify Use of Components Included With the Heat Sink

Modify use of the components that come with the heat sink: back plate, anchoring mount plate, screws, washers, and posts, as shown in the image to secure the heat sink, Peltier, and water block.

Step 3: Secure Heat Sink Back Plate and Pump Holder

Drill guide-holes into the plywood for the sheet metal screws; in this case #8 x 5/8” screws were used. Then secure the heat sink back plate and pump holder to the plywood with the screws.

Step 4: Insulate Water Block

To minimize heat loss from the sides of the water block use foam insulation. A square foot of rubber foam from your local hardware store will be sufficient. Cut out rubber foam to match the dimension of the water block. Here, a water-soluble non-toxic adhesive was used to affix the rubber foam to the water block. Apply a thin coat of adhesive on the rubber foam cut-outs and the sides of the water block that will be insulated. Insulate between the water block nozzles as well (not shown). Allow to dry for 2 hours. Leave one of the water block sides free of rubber foam, so that the 40x40mm Peltier can contact the water block.

Step 5: Spread Thermal Compound and Mount

Apply thermal compound/grease, spreading a thin layer on the surfaces that will be in contact. Make sure
all surfaces are clean before apply thermal compound and follow thermal compound or heat sink manufacturer’s instructions (example methodologies for applying thermal grease). The surface spread method was used for our assembly as observed in the images.
Match the insulation-free side of the water block with and the cold side of the Peltier when positive current power the Peltier. With thermal grease on both surfaces, place the Peltier on the water block. Next, fit the 3/8 inch ID vinyl tubing to the water block and clamp the tubing with the metal screw clams. Spread ther-mal compound on the remaining side of the Peltier and the base plate of the heat sink. Place the heat sink on top of the Peltier, carefully resting the base plate on the Peltier. Line up all edges so that the 40x40mm2 surface areas on the Peltier are covered with the base plate of the heat sink and the water block.
Use the mounting plate included with the heat sink, to clamp all components tightly together. The two machine screws - M3-.5 x 12mm - will be needed to secure the mounting plate to the anchoring mount because the machine screws provided with the heat sink will not be long enough. Place a thick nylon washer (5/16 x 9/16) between the mounting plate and anchoring mount to limit the pressure that is applied on the Peltier. When mounting heat sink onto Peltier, tighten screws evenly do not tighten tight one side much more than the other. A circular bubble level can help level components when assembling the heat sink, Peltier, and waterblock.
Connect all 3/8 inch ID vinyl tubing so that water flows from the outlet of the pump through the water block and into BioMONSTAAAR’s acrylic water jacket. Connect the 1/2 inch ID vinyl tubing so that water flows from the outlet of the bioreactors water jacket to the water pumps inlet. The tubing connected to the inlet of the pump must be filled with water for the pump to function properly. Large air bubbles will cause the pump to fail!

Step 6: Testing the H&C System

The H&C system was used to change the temperature of 37dL (~1 gallon) of water. The fittings were water tight and the pump functioned as expected. Heating and cooling was both tested at approximate 60% (8A/13A) of the Peltier TEC’s operating power; approximately 130W and 120W of heating and cooling were achieved, respectively. The calculated values will be slight greater and smaller for heating and cooling power because heat was loss occurred at the water air interface, that was not accounted for in calculations. These values are within the expected heating and cooling abilities of the H&C system. It will be interesting to see H&C capability when the Peltier is at 100% operating power and connect to BioMONSTAAARs prototype bioreactor.

Step 7: Improvements and Next Steps

The plate underneath the water becomes cold when the system is in cooling mode – heat loss from the water block to the back plate is occurring. An additional layer of insulation should be added.
The pump warms up when running, decreasing the H&C system’s cooling capability. The pump should be slowed down to minimize heat generation. The pump is currently powered with the same voltage as the Peltier. Reducing the pump flow rate or using a different pump with a slower flow rate should be tested to determine if the cooling ability improves.
Tube length will be reduced once the water jacket for BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor is complete.
The H&C system needs to be tested on BioMONSTAAAR’s prototype bioreactor once it is all assembled

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    Question 2 years ago on Step 1

    Hi there. I am looking for someone to help me design a build a version of this on a contract basis. Would you be interested ?


    6 years ago

    i have a 15 gallon tank of aquatic plants, can it bring down the temp by 5 degrees.


    6 years ago

    Any advice on a particular model if I want to regulate the temperature of a small container between 15 to 30 degrees Celsius? And what determines the final temperature, voltage or current?


    8 years ago

    What about using multiple tec?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    It's possible to stack them, but that would drastically reduce efficiency. If you didn't have a powerful cooling system heat would eventually build up to a point where it would probably destroy the Peltier element. You can buy different size TEC's however.

    These are basically modular systems, so you could potentially plumb several of them together. I am not sure, but my guess is multiple heat pumps would increase efficiency (e.g. less temperature fluctuation, more surface area of the peltiers, and only one pump for all the units).

    Note: I obviously didn't build this project but I helped spark the idea early on (I am a team member of BIOMONSTAAR).


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    add a fan to your heatsink module. It will help you a lot in bringing the cold side of peltier to below 0's.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Very true...dmuonio's knowledge of aquariums and idea to use a Peltier TEC, were crucial initiatives to BioMONSTAAAR's temperature regulation. Sincere thanks dmuonio.


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    I do not agree. I am living here in China and Chinese dudes here have created many such. For multiple peltiers they like to use flowing water on the hot side. Water flows through tubes using a pump, that water is then put in a tub on which they blow fans to keep it at room temp.
    Another example would be communication cabinets from exchanges, they have peltier assemblies in them as well now. Chinese are selling it to west at a crazy price. The cold side is placed inside the cabinet while hot air is exhauseted outside the cabinet via the 12v dc fans.

    Jesus guys, so expensive equipment.
    I am in China and all these things cost at least 3 times lesser. I have already spent 150$ in learning peltier by buying all shapes and size of stuff. If you guys can donate I can try all the gigs.

    I have done basic stuff like seeing ice on one side etc. Now want to go for making a small air con. For that I need to buy condensing plates which cost around 50$. I have spent enough in playing with them all that stuff i have seems like junk. I mean I have tested all of them and learned which combo works best.

    below is a ready made module (first pic) that a Chinese made here. He was selling it online for something like 50 CNY , I made much better one in 50 CNY. I used the processor cooling modules to keep hotside cool. They are very cheap here as Chinese love gaming and to keep systems cool they use it a lot so increased demand decreased the price.