Advanced Thermal Management Strategies – Scalable Coal-Graphene based TIMs and Additively Manufactured Heat Sinks

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Virginia Tech


With increased focus on miniaturization and high performance in electronics, thermal management is a very important area of research today. In multiple applications such as portable electronics, consumer electronics, military applications, automobile, power electronics, high performance computing, etc. innovative thermal management strategies are necessary. In this work, two novel approaches to dissipate redundant heat better- first by novel carbonaceous-nanoparticle additives to develop thermal interface materials with superior performance and the second by using advanced metal additive manufacturing techniques to design and analyze metal-lattice based heat sinks are presented.

Thermal Interface Materials with multiple carbon-based nanoparticle fillers such as coal-derived Multi Layered Graphene (MLG), standard reduced Graphene Oxide (rGO), Multi-Walled Carbon Nano Tubes (MWCNTs), and Graphene Nano-Platelets (GNPs) in thermal paste were synthesized and seen to have superior heat dissipation properties. Also, graphene was synthesized from coal through an in-house, facile, scalable and cost-effective process. The enhancement in thermal conductance varies from ~70% in the coal-MLG to ~14% in MWCNTs-based TIMs. Noteworthy is ~3.5 times larger enhancement in thermal performance with the in-house coal-derived-MLG as compared to the commercially available g-MLG. At a 3% wt. fraction of coal-MLG, enhancement in thermal conductance was almost 120% higher compared to the base thermal grease.

In the second part, metal lattice-based heat sinks are designed for additive manufacturing for use in passive cooling of high-flux thermal management. A parametric optimization based on the lattice geometry, thickness, and height subject to additive manufacturing constraints is conducted. Intricate metal lattices with low mass based on the Simple Cubic, Octet, and Voronoi structures were generated by implicit modelling in nTopology® and their thermal performance was analyzed through numerical analysis using commercial CFD packages. The Voronoi lattice performed best with a significant improvement in thermal performance (~18% reduction in junction temperature difference with respect to ambient) as compared to a standard baseline Longitudinal heat Sink (LHS), while reducing the mass of the heat sink by ~2.1 times. Such optimized metal lattice-based heat sinks can lead to significant downsizing, reduction in overall mass and cost in applications where thermal management is critical with a need for low mass. We believe that such novel scalable materials and processes suited for mass production could be critical in meeting the material, design and product development needs to tackle the thermal management challenges of the future.



Electronics Cooling; Thermal Interface Material; Thermal management; Electronics Packaging, Graphene, Additive Manufacturing, Heat Sinks, Design, Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD)