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Cooling of Seat Electronic box and cabin Equipment

Tags: Air


New generations of in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems are required to provide more and more services (audio, video, Internet, flight services, multimedia, games, shopping, phone, etc.) at an affordable cost. But unlike other avionics systems installed in temperature-controlled bays, most of the IFE equipment and boxes are installed inside the cabin. They may be buried in small enclosed zones, not connected to the aircraft cooling system (ECS), and this situation creates thermal management problems that affect the reliability, safety and cost of the equipment. The most critical piece of equipment is the SEB (seat electronic box) installed under each passenger seat.

To face the increasing power dissipation, fans are used but with the following drawbacks: extra cost, energy consumption when multiplied by the number of seats, reliability and maintenance concern (filters, failures, etc.), risk of blocking by passengers’ belongings, and noise, coupled with unpleasant smells creating disturbance in the overall cabin area.

The objectives of the project are, therefore, to develop and evaluate an alternate advanced cooling technique to the fans based on a loop-heat-pipe, phase-change passive system, adequately integrated inside the seat structure and taking advantage of the seat frame as a heat sink or of the aircraft structure when installed in the ceiling.


A European collaboration is necessary due to the multidisciplinary nature of the problems to be solved and the fact that the necessary expertise and knowledge do not lie in a sole nation (e.g. phase-change simulation and design, heat pipe manufacturing, equipment cooling, seat integration and development, aircraft interfaces).

An international co-operation with ITP (Russian research leader and pioneer in the field of miniature loop heat pipes) is proposed to strengthen the consortium research team.

The quantified technical and scientific objectives are to develop a new cooling enhanced thermal link dedicated to cabin IFE equipment, which will have the following characteristics:

  • transfer capacity up to 100 W (existing equipment is between 30 and 75W)
  • thermal conductivity equivalent or greater than 800 W/m/°K (twice of that compared to copper)
  • heat transportation distance 500 mm (max)
  • resistance to aircraft cabin environment (vibration, acceleration, shocks, airbus specifications)
  • minimum volume and low weight
  • ease maintenance
  • affordable cost target vs. cost of a fan system

Two Fifth Framework Programme projects are relevant to COSEE: MCUBE, dedicated to the development of micro heat pipes and ANAIS, dedicated to improved IFE architecture. Both are coordinated by Thales Avionics and will bring experience and results to this project.

Seat installation
Seat installation

Description of work

The technical programme is divided into six work packages (WP), distributed by type of activity.

Research and innovation activity:

WP1 General technical analysis:

  • System specifications
  • Comparison of existing cooling options
  • System mock-up definition
  • Test file definition

WP2 Loop-heat-pipe studies:

  • Theoretical approach
  • Technology mock-up experimentation
  • LHP development

WP3 System integration designs:

  • Equipment integration
  • Seat integration

WP4 System mock-up development:

  • LHP manufacturing
  • Equipment adaptations
  • Seat adaptations

WP5 Performance evaluation:

  • Thermo-mechanical performance evaluation

Management activity:

  • WP6 Synthesis, exploitation and project management.


The deliverables for this project are:

  • D1 Technical report on module specifications T0+6
  • D2 Technical report on HP simulations and experimentation T0+18
  • D3 Laboratory experimentations T0+18
  • D4 Technical report on system integration T0+18
  • D5 Technical report on system mock-up definition T0+24
  • D6 Technological system mock-up assembly report T0+24
  • D7 Test report on thermo-mechanical performance T0+30
  • D8 Final report with synthesis and limits of technologies T0+30

All the companies providing IFE systems today are of American and Japanese ownership and origin. The top four players are supported by huge national companies that have the critical mass to fund research into new generations of products every two or three years. The technological revolution of recent years – moving from analogue systems to integrated digital systems – will continue over the coming years as components evolve in terms of package size and complexity, and because of the convergence of Internet, TV and audio standards; so-called multi-media. Currently the only realistic way for European players to compete in this market is by grouping the experience and knowledge of key partners in a given sector, as in COSEE.

Seat installation
Seat installation