Modeling Convective Heat Transfer of Air in a Data Center Using OpenFOAM

Evaluation of the Boussinesq Buoyancy Approximation




fvm, boussinesq, compressible, heat transfer, kde, k-epsilon, Richardson


Achieving energy and cooling efficiency in data center convective air flow and heat transfer can be a challenging task. Among different numerical methods to work with such issues is the Finite Volume Method in Computational Fluid Dynamics. This work evaluates the performance of two such solvers provided by OpenFOAM® in solving this type of convective heat-transfer problem, namely BuoyantBoussinesqPimpleFOAM and BuoyantPimpleFOAM. This is done for two different flow configurations of significantly different Richardson number. To sufficiently resolve the flow, grid sizing effects are elucidated by way of the kernel density estimate. It determines the volume distribution of the temperature in the data center configuration. For the k-epsilon turbulence model used here, it was found that the compressible solver performs faster and requires less grid resolution for both flow configurations. This is attributed to the nature of the boundary conditions which are set such that the mass flow conservation per server rack and cooling unit is achieved. Transient solutions are found to provide better iterative convergence for cases that involves buoyancy, compressibility and flow separation. This is, in comparison to steady-state solutions where artificial numerical pressure drop is found, to depend on the momentum relaxation factors for the convective case with a higher Richardson number.

Additional Files



How to Cite

Barestrand, H., Ljung, A.-L., Summers, J., & Lundström, S. (2023). Modeling Convective Heat Transfer of Air in a Data Center Using OpenFOAM: Evaluation of the Boussinesq Buoyancy Approximation. OpenFOAM® Journal, 3, 146–158.



16th OpenFOAM® Workshop - 2021