Plate elements are three- or four-node elements formulated in three-dimensional space. These elements are used to model heat transfer in thin plate/shell type structures. Plate elements can have convective and radiative loads specified on their surface. … Plate elements can also incur heat generation per unit volume.
Shell elements are used to model structures in which one dimension, the thickness, is significantly smaller than the other dimensions. Conventional shell elements use this condition to discretize a body by defining the geometry at a reference surface. … The thickness is determined from the element nodal geometry.