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John O | May 2017

Article explores the impact of heat sink material on thermal performance


Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) recently posted an article exploring the impact that the choice of heat sink material, in particular aluminum, copper, and graphite foam has on the thermal performance of the heat sink.

 


This article from ATS explores the thermal impact of heat sink materials.
(Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

 

The study used geometrically identical heat sinks to examine the thermal properties of the three materials. The tests were conducted analytically, experimentally in an ATS wind tunnel with consistent unducted airflow and also with CFD simulations.

 

The article explained, “In this study, the heat sinks were clamped directly to the test component without a carrier plate as a baseline for all three materials. Shin-Etsu X23 thermal grease was used as an interface material to fill the porous surface of the foam and reduce interfacial resistance. Five J-type thermocouples were placed in the following locations: upstream of the heat sink to record ambient air temperatures, in the heater block, in the center of the heat sink base, at the edge of the heat sink base, and in the tip of the outermost fin.”

 

It continued, “A thin film heater was set at 10 watts during all testing, and the heat source area was 25 mm x 25 mm, or one quarter of the overall sink base area, as shown in Figure 1. Both cardboard and FR-4 board were used to insulate the bottom of the heater, The estimated value of Ψjb is 62.5°C/W. Throughout testing, the value of Ψjb was 36–92 times greater than that of Ψja.”

 

Not surprisingly, copper and aluminum performed similarly well with copper’s higher thermal conductivity giving it the edge. Graphite foam was within 12 percent of aluminum at low airflow rates but that difference extended to as much as 25-30 percent as airflow increased.

 

The article said, “Graphite foam-derived heat sinks show promise in specific applications, but exhibit several drawbacks in mainstream electronics cooling. Due to the frail nature of graphite foam, unique precautions must be taken during the handling and use of these heat sinks. When coupled to a copper base plate, graphite foam can perform with acceptably small spreading resistances.

 

“However, the foam’s lower thermal conductivity reduces thermal performance at high flow velocities compared to a traditional copper heat sink.”

 

After conducting simulations with the different materials, the author concluded, “The first method for determining material selection is a classic thermodynamics problem: what effect does conductivity have on the overall thermal resistance in my system? Only once this is answered can the benefits of cost, weight, and manufacture be addressed.”

 

Read the full article at https://www.qats.com/cms/2017/04/19/how-do-heat-sink-materials-impact-performance.

 

This article was originally published in Qpedia Thermal eMagazine, which is the media sponsor of coolingZONE. Learn more about Qpedia at https://www.qats.com/Qpedia-Thermal-eMagazine.

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