September  2009, 25(3): 1061-1079. doi: 10.3934/dcds.2009.25.1061

Estimating thermal insulating ability of anisotropic coatings via Robin eigenvalues and eigenfunctions


Laboratory of Nonlinear Analysis, Department of Mathematics, Central China Normal University, 430079, China


Mathematics Department, Tulane University, New Orleans, LA 70118, United States


School of Mathematics and Statistics, Northeast Normal University, 130024, China

Received  October 2008 Revised  February 2009 Published  August 2009

The problem considered in this paper is the protection from overheating of a thermal conductor $\Omega_1$ by a thin anisotropic coating $\Omega_2$ (e.g. a space shuttle painted with a nano-insulator). We assume Newton's Cooling Law, so the temperature satisfies the Robin boundary condition on the outer boundary of the coating. Since the temperature function on $\Omega=\overline{\Omega}_1\cup\Omega_2$ can be expanded in terms of the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions of the elliptic operator $u\mapsto -\nabla (A \nabla u)$ with the Robin boundary condition on $\partial\Omega$, where $A$ is the thermal tensor of $\Omega$, we propose the following means to ensure the insulating ability of $\Omega_2$: (A) as many eigenvalues as possible should be small, in particular, the first eigenvalue should be small, (B) the first normalized eigenfunction should take large values on the body $\Omega_1$; we also argue that it is helpful for the understanding of the dynamics if (C) higher normalized eigenfunctions take small absolute values on $\Omega_1$. We assume that the thermal conductivity of $\Omega_2$ is small either in all directions or at least in the direction normal to $\partial\Omega_1$ (the case of "optimally aligned coating"). We study the asymptotic behavior of Robin eigenpairs as outcome of the interplay of the thermal tensor $A$, the thickness of $\Omega_2$ and the thermal transport coefficient in the Robin boundary condition, in the singular limit when either the thermal conductivity of $\Omega_2$, or the thickness of $\Omega_2$, or the thermal transport coefficient approaches $0$. By doing so, we identify the parameter ranges in which some or all of (A)-(C) occur.
Citation: Guojing Zhang, Steve Rosencrans, Xuefeng Wang, Kaijun Zhang. Estimating thermal insulating ability of anisotropic coatings via Robin eigenvalues and eigenfunctions. Discrete & Continuous Dynamical Systems - A, 2009, 25 (3) : 1061-1079. doi: 10.3934/dcds.2009.25.1061

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