The automotive industry continues to be a hotbed of patent innovation. In applications related to renewable energy, such as solar thermal systems and biomass processing, multi-fluid heat exchangers play a role in capturing and transferring heat efficiently. This supports the integration of renewable energy sources into existing processes. Additionally, Industries such as chemical processing, petrochemicals, pharmaceuticals, and energy production increasingly require efficient heat exchange solutions. Multi-fluid heat exchangers are versatile and can be customized to meet the specific needs of various industrial processes. Innovation in multi-fluid heat exchangers is also driven by the growing importance of technologies such as computational fluid dynamics, additive manufacturing, microscale and nanoscale heat transfer enhancement, and phase change materials. In the last three years alone, there have been over 1.7 million patents filed and granted in the automotive industry, according to GlobalData’s report on Innovation in automotive: multi-fluid heat exchangers. Buy the report here.

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However, not all innovations are equal and nor do they follow a constant upward trend. Instead, their evolution takes the form of an S-shaped curve that reflects their typical lifecycle from early emergence to accelerating adoption, before finally stabilizing and reaching maturity.

Identifying where a particular innovation is on this journey, especially those that are in the emerging and accelerating stages, is essential for understanding their current level of adoption and the likely future trajectory and impact they will have.

300+ innovations will shape the automotive industry

According to GlobalData’s Technology Foresights, which plots the S-curve for the automotive industry using innovation intensity models built on over one million patents, there are 300+ innovation areas that will shape the future of the industry.

Within the emerging innovation stage, integrated multi-motor drivetrains, electric power steering (EPS), and post-collision handling are disruptive technologies that are in the early stages of application and should be tracked closely. Variable compression engines, V2V distance monitoring, and turbocharger shaft bearings are some of the accelerating innovation areas, where adoption has been steadily increasing. Among maturing innovation areas are kinetic energy recovery system (KERS) and plasma-jet ignition, which are now well established in the industry.

Innovation S-curve for the automotive industry

Multi-fluid heat exchangers is a key innovation area in automotive

Multi-fluid heat exchangers are devices used to transfer heat between different fluids without allowing them to come in contact with each other. They consist of multiple units with passages for each fluid to pass through, with a third conduit carrying an intermediate fluid to transfer heat between them.

GlobalData’s analysis also uncovers the companies at the forefront of each innovation area and assesses the potential reach and impact of their patenting activity across different applications and geographies. According to GlobalData, there are 30+ companies, spanning technology vendors, established automotive companies, and up-and-coming start-ups engaged in the development and application of multi-fluid heat exchangers.

Key players in multi-fluid heat exchangers – a disruptive innovation in the automotive industry

‘Application diversity’ measures the number of applications identified for each patent. It broadly splits companies into either ‘niche’ or ‘diversified’ innovators.   

‘Geographic reach’ refers to the number of countries each patent is registered in. It reflects the breadth of geographic application intended, ranging from ‘global’ to ‘local’.  

Patent volumes related to multi-fluid heat exchangers

Company Total patents (2010 - 2022) Premium intelligence on the world's largest companies
Rolls-Royce 13 Unlock Company Profile
Sejong Industrial 14 Unlock Company Profile
Dana 94 Unlock Company Profile
Valeo 27 Unlock Company Profile
Zhejiang Sanhua Intelligent Controls 25 Unlock Company Profile
Air Liquide 14 Unlock Company Profile
KNM Group Bhd 15 Unlock Company Profile
Hyundai Motor 145 Unlock Company Profile
Hanon Systems 33 Unlock Company Profile
Saipem 19 Unlock Company Profile
General Electric 32 Unlock Company Profile
Mitsubishi Electric 20 Unlock Company Profile
Modine Manufacturing 28 Unlock Company Profile
Wescast Industries 12 Unlock Company Profile
Porsche Automobil 48 Unlock Company Profile
Tenneco 17 Unlock Company Profile
Raytheon Technologies 73 Unlock Company Profile
Mahle 69 Unlock Company Profile
Sumitomo 14 Unlock Company Profile
LG 29 Unlock Company Profile
Honeywell International 11 Unlock Company Profile
BorgWarner 26 Unlock Company Profile
Kia 39 Unlock Company Profile
Ford Motor 17 Unlock Company Profile
NGK Insulators 18 Unlock Company Profile
Stellantis 19 Unlock Company Profile
TechnipFMC 13 Unlock Company Profile
Tanjung Citech UK 18 Unlock Company Profile
ARVOS Group (formerly Alstom Steam Auxiliary Components business) 15 Unlock Company Profile
Haldor Topsoe 25 Unlock Company Profile
MANN+HUMMEL International 22 Unlock Company Profile

Source: GlobalData Patent Analytics

Hyundai Motor is a leading patent filers in multi-fluid heat exchangers. Hyundai Motor's multi-fluid heat exchanger (MFE) technology is a system that uses multiple fluids to transfer heat more efficiently than traditional heat exchangers. The system is expected to be used in future Hyundai electric vehicles (EVs) to improve their range and performance. The MFE system uses three fluids - a refrigerant, a coolant, and a brine. The refrigerant is used to cool the battery pack, the coolant is used to cool the motor and other components, and the brine is used to store heat. Some other key patent filers in the space include Dana, Raytheon Technologies, and Mahle.

In terms of application diversity, Honeywell International leads the pack, while LG and Tenneco stood in the second and third positions, respectively. By means of geographic reach, Saipem held the top position, followed by KNM Group and Air Liquide.

To further understand the key themes and technologies disrupting the automotive industry, access GlobalData’s latest thematic research report on Automotive

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GlobalData, the leading provider of industry intelligence, provided the underlying data, research, and analysis used to produce this article.

GlobalData’s Patent Analytics tracks patent filings and grants from official offices around the world. Textual analysis and official patent classifications are used to group patents into key thematic areas and link them to specific companies across the world’s largest industries.