Thermion(R) heating elements are made
of a thin, conductive textile consisting of nickel-coated carbon
fibers formed into a non-woven fabric using a paper-making
technology. Because of the random conductive paths inherent
in the fabric, the heating elements are said to provide better
uniformity than other heater products.
The technology was originally developed for the aerospace industry and
was introduced to the consumer and international marketplace at the end
of 2002, explains Michael Zak, director of Sales and Marketing, Thermion
Systems International (Stratford, CT, U.S.).
"Thermion heaters are constructed using a process that was designed
for high-volume production," Mr. Zak says. "The raw Thermion
material is manufactured from nickel-plated carbon fibers that have been
into very small pieces and turned into a very lightweight, non-woven
fabric using a specialized paper-making process. The fabric is then laminated
between layers of thermoplastic materials to create flexible and repeatable
heating elements." The fabric, he adds, can be laminated in a variety
of thermoplastic, thermosetting, elastomeric, composite, or other sheet
film materials, depending on the application.
"The main benefit of Thermion technology for design engineers is
its design flexibility," Mr. Zak continues. "Thermion Systems
only makes custom heaters to the exact size and power requirements of
Our technology works with a.c. or d.c. power from a few volts to 480
V. Heaters can be made as small as 1 x 2 inches to as large as 22 x 100
feet. We can also construct heaters in different colors to better match
the color scheme of a particular appliance."
The technology is also
said to offer performance benefits and increased reliability. According
to Mr. Zak, Thermion heaters do not rely on a
single conductor to carry all of the current and to generate the heat
like a wire or foil heater. He explains: "Our heaters use an infinite
number of conductive paths in the form of tiny random fibers evenly disbursed
to carry the current and generate uniform heating profiles. This allows
Thermion heaters to be temperature cycled and mechanically stressed over
and over again without failure."
The heater's low thermal mass also
reportedly makes it extremely responsive to heat-up and cool-down cycles. "The
low profile allows the heaters to be used in almost any piece of equipment," Mr.
Zak tells APPLIANCE "The
low thermal mass means that the heaters achieve the desired temperature
very quickly (within seconds) and cool down again when power is removed.
This is very desirable in equipment that gets cycled frequently."
to the company, the heating elements can often be used as a direct
replacement for silicon rubber or Kapton foil heaters. Some potential
appliance applications include defrost heaters used in refrigerators,
ice machines, and coolers; hot plates that warm coffee pots and carafes;
medical devices such as blood analyzers, dialysis machines, and ultrasonic
cleaners; and heated display cabinets or shelves. They can also be
to prevent freezing and moisture build-up in outdoor ATMs, security
cameras, and vending machines.