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Heat Pipes


In any engineering field, the main problem faced by an engineer is dissipation of heat, that is produced on site during operation of the component. Over the years, various methods have been developed to dissipate this heat effectively. These include various types of heat sinks, fins, fans, etc.. In fields like computer hardware, electronics, etc., limited space is available. Dissipation of heat from an entire system like a CPU or an electronic PCB; fans or heat sinks can be used. But for cooling of small electronic components like resisters, transistors, semiconductor chips, etc. heat sinks or fans cannot be used. In such cases, HEAT PIPES prove to be a useful device. They are available in various shapes and sizes .Heat pipes are very effective in dissipating heat from any component. New types of heat pipes are being invented and constant research is being done. The report deals with concept, types, components and construction of heat pipes along with applications in electronic engineering field.


Heat Pipes


The development of the heat pipe originally started with Angier March Perkins who worked initially with the concept of the working fluid only in one phase (he took out a patent in 1839 on the hermetic tube boiler which works on this principle). Jacob Perkins (descendant of Angier March) patented the Perkins Tube in 1936 and they became widespread for use in locomotive boilers and baking ovens. The Perkins Tube was a system in which a long and twisted tube passed over an evaporator and a condenser, which caused the water within the tube to operate in two phases. Although these early designs for heat transfer systems relied on gravity to return the liquid to the evaporator (later called a thermosyphon), the Perkins Tube was the jumping off point for the development of the modern heat pipe. The concept of the modern heat pipe, which relied on a wicking system to transport the liquid against gravity and up to the condenser, was put forward by R.S. Gaugler of the General Motors Corporation. According to his patent in 1944, Gaugler described how his heat pipe would be applied to refrigeration systems. Heat pipe research became popular after that and many industries and labs including Los Alamos, RCA, the Joint Nuclear Research Centre in Italy, began to apply heat pipe technology their fields. By 1969, there was a vast amount of interest on the part of NASA, Hughes, the European Space Agency, and other aircraft companies in regulating the temperature of a spacecraft and how that could be done with the help of heat pipes. There has been extensive research done to date regarding specific heat transfer characteristics, in addition to the analysis of various material properties and geometries.


Thus. energy transferring device.Heat Pipes CHAPTER 2: CONCEPT AND PRINCIPLE 2. 3 . Due to their phenomenally high thermal conductivity. . it is a self contained. Basically a heat pipe is a thermal energy absorbing & transferring system.A heat pipe is a super thermal conductor that transmits thermal energy by evaporation & condensation of the working fluid.A heat pipe is a synergistic engineering structure which is equivalent to a material having thermal conductivity greatly exceeding that of any known metal. passive. which can carry about one thousand times more heat energy than an equivalent size of copper rod. it has an effective thermal conductivity several hundred times more than an equivalent size of copper.1 DEFINITION A heat pipe has been defined in several different ways as follows: . for the same temperature gradient. In other words. heat pipes are virtually isothermal. incorporated for the return of the working fluid. It consists of an evacuated sealed tube with a capillary mechanism.

The working fluid inside the heat pipe is in equilibrium with its own vapour. Evaporator Section 2.2. as the container is sealed under vacuum. Due to the pressure gradients. As water has very high latent heat of vaporisation 4 .1 EVAPORATOR SECTION : This is the heat in section of the heat pipe. giving up the latent heat of condensation. applied to the external surface of the heat pipe. causes the working fluid near the surface. Adiabatic Section 3. thereby. A heat pipe may be divided into three main regions : 1. to transfer enormous heat fluxes. water in the wick boils at 50C. The condensed liquid then flows back to the high temperature region. to evaporate instantaneously.2 OPERATING PRINCIPLE The heat pipe makes use of latent heats of vaporization and condensation. the heat pipe works continuously in a closed loop evaporation – condensation cycle. Condenser Section 2. as almost all the heat is transferred through liquid vapour transformation. having low temperature and pressure. aided with the capillary pumping action. Due to very low vapour pressure. as a result of evacuation. causing the vapour to condense into liquid. Thermal energy. absorbs the latent heat of vaporisation. Here. the excess vapour is forced to a remote area within the heat pipe.Heat Pipes 2. to be reused. thus completing a cycle. The vapour thus formed. and converts into water vapour. thus created within the heat pipe by the rapid generation of vapour. Only a negligible quantity of heat transfers through the metal body of the pipe. the thermal energy is removed. Thus.

during its flow from the evaporator to the condenser. releasing large quantity of heat. This causes the steam inside the pipe to condense. The water vapour. water or even by natural convection.Heat Pipes (about 2500 KJ/Kg). Also. Heat is neither absorbed. a heat pipe is totally reversible. large quantity of heat is absorbed in the form of latent heat of phase transformation. in the form of latent heat of condensation. 2. Hence. undergoes a slight pressure drop in this section. A peculiar characteristic of a heat pipe is that any portion of the heat pipe can be used as an evaporator or a condenser.2.2. nor rejected in this region. Heat is removed from this portion. 2.3 CONDENSER SECTION : This is the Heat out section of the heat pipe. it has no mechanically moving parts. 5 . and it needs no external power for its operation.2 ADIABATIC SECTION : This section separates the evaporator and the condenser regions. using forced air.

Heat Pipes FIGURE 2.2 Operating Principle 6 .

Diameter (mm) 16 16 16 16 16 11 6 7 . Length (mm) 500 360 360 360 360 200 L-shaped 4. Temperature (0C) 110 55 30 80 110 40 40 3. Capacity (W) 360 220 80 150 600 100 80 2.Heat Pipes TABLE 1: COMPARISON OF OPERATING PARAMETERS Specification Natural convection Forced convection 1.

depending on the specifications and the working fluid (some combinations are not compatible for material). stainless steel.Heat Pipes CHAPTER 3: CONSTRUCTION OF HEAT PIPE 3. The wick is usually located against the inside walls of the heat pipe. Capillary action describes how fluid in a very small tube will be forced up through this tiny opening causing the fluid to rise. A heat pipe has three different components: 1. The Working Fluid. Stainless steel is easiest to work with but copper is also used. 2. This fluid transport against gravity is passive and can be attributed to the atmospheric pressure pushing the through the small pores.1 COMPONENTS The casing can be made out of a variety of different materials. 3. is difficult to weave and therefore in using this material it is difficult to achieve a small poresize . The Wick. or aluminum casings. The pore size is important because the wick operates under the principle of capillary action. Aluminum on the other hand. Most heat pipes currently used have copper. 8 . The Casing. and the surface tension felt between the molecules of the fluid itself (thereby ensuring a continuos stream of fluid moving up the wick). The wick is often a woven wire mesh that is composed of very small pores.

2 CONSTRUCTION : A heat pipe is a thin walled metal tube.Heat Pipes 3. usually of circular cross section. The inner surface of this tube is lined with a wick. by capillary action. which is sealed from both ends. is introduced in the heat pipe. The sealed container is in the form of an evacuated tube. Thereafter. TABLE 2: FLUIDS SUITABLE FOR HEAT PIPES (Properties at atmospheric pressure) Fluid Ammonia Water Cesium Potassium Sodium Lithium Lead Melting Boiling Density (Kg/m3) 682 1000 1794 819 929 509 10492 Latent Heat (KJ/Kg) 1370 2250 612 2077 4210 19631 585 Surface Tension (mN/m) 41 76 76 86 190 386 470 Point (0K) Point (0K) 196 240 273 373 302 978 337 1033 371 1156 452 1590 600 2010 CHAPTER 4: CLASSIFICATION AND TYPES OF HEAT PIPES 9 . held tightly against the container wall. A small quantity of the working fluid (depending upon the operating temperature). the system is evacuated and sealed. The basic purpose of providing the wick is to transport the working fluid inside the tube from one end of the tube (condenser) to the other end (evaporator).

a revolving heat pipe is one that rotates around an axis located some distance from and parallel to the central axis of the heat pipe. By Operating Temperature Range • • • • • • • • • Cryogenic Ambient Liquid metal Arterial Composite Rotating / Revolving heat pipes Micro.1 CLASSIFICATION Heat pipes can be classified in several different ways as follows:1.heat pipes Variable Conductance heat pipes Thermal diodes 2. 4. such as the shaft of an electric motor. By comparison.1ROTATING AND REVOLVING HEAT PIPES : For the purpose of this discussion. The heat pipe case may be uniform in cross section or may be tapered to promote return of the working fluid to the evaporator. By Wicking Structure 3. a rotating heat pipe will be defined as one that rotates longitudinally around its own central axis.Heat Pipes 4. By Function Some of these types are as follows:4.2 VARIABLE CONDUCTANCE HEAT PIPES : 10 .1.1.

the presence of noncondensible gases creates a problem due to the partial blockage of the condensing area. was designed to control the temperature and dissipate heat in a cesium clock utilized at a ground station of the Global Positioning System. moving the gas front. During normal operation. • Excess-Liquid Heat Pipes : 11 . as the heat flux increases. Heat pipes are no exception. can be used to control both the direction and amount of heat transferred. any noncondensible gases present are carried to the condenser and remain there. the gas front recedes and the thermal conductance increases due to the larger condenser surface area.Heat Pipes As is the case with most two-phase cycles. As the heat available at the evaporator varies. that is. although normally undesirable. A gas-loaded heat pipe is shown in Fig.1. A variable conductance heat pipe (VCHP) constructed from stainless steel with ammonia as the working fluid. reducing the effective condenser area. This in turn results in a variation in the thermal conductance. In this way. This characteristic. the temperature drop across the evaporator and condenser can be maintained fairly constant even though the evaporator heat flux may fluctuate.2(a). • Gas-loaded Heat Pipes : In this type of device the thermal conductance of the heat pipe varies as a function of the gas front position.4. the vapor temperature varies and the gas contained within the gas reservoir expands or contracts. The performance specifications allowed the removal of approximately 5 W while maintaining a constant temperature bandwidth of 57 + 130C while the ambient conditions ranged from -25 to + 550C.

one to transport liquid trap.1. 4.Heat Pipes Fig. As the temperature gradient is reversed.Figure illustrates the principle used in excess liquid or liquid flow-modulated heat pipes. the liquid moves into the trap and starves the evaporator of fluid. They operate in much the same manner as gas-loaded heat pipes. but utilize excess working fluid to block portions of the pipe and control the condenser size or prevent reversal of heat transfer.2(b) shows schematic of Excess-liquid heat pipe. 4.2 SPECIFIC TYPES OF HEAT PIPES 12 . This type of heat pipe has two separate wicking structures.

1 FLAT PIPE 4. Manufacturers are now able to make heat pipes in any geometry and specifically tailored to the needs of the consumer. Flat heat pipes are just that. Flat heat pipes produce a surface that has a relatively uniform temperature distribution and large surface area.2. FIGURE 4.2 THERMAL SWITCHES:- 13 . it is a metal powder that has been molded and heated until the metal has fused.Heat Pipes 4. These would be useful in the case where one needs to radiate heat uniformly instead of from a point source. The use of flat plates as wall components could be one possible application for heat pipe technology.2. creating a structurally stable metal with small pores within. the orientation of the wick structure is designed so that the liquid is more evenly distributed to the top and the bottom of the plate.2.1 FLAT PIPES :Many different types of heat pipes have been developed over the years. Several types of heat pipes include heat pipes with thermal diodes or thermal switches (including variable conductance heat pipes) and flat plate heat pipes. The wick structure in a flat plate is a sintered metal.

FIGURE 4. placing a magnetically operated vane within the pipe which would block the vapor flow.2. Thermal diodes allow the heat pipe to only work in one direction. made possible in a variety of different ways.2 THERMAL SWITCH 4. In one example of a heat 14 . or using a physical displacement block (which controls the amount of fluid in the reservoir and in the heat pipe by blocking the fluid from being transported by the wick).2.Heat Pipes Thermal switches in a heat pipe serve to prevent the pipe from working in certain cases.3 THERMAL DIODES:Another possible way to stop or control the heat transfer within the pipe would be by limiting the acting surface of the condenser by using an inert gas (this is the principle also behind variable conductance heat pipes). This can be accomplished by introducing a blockage. Methods would include freezing the fluid.

the liquid becomes trapped in a reservoir whose wicks are not connected to the rest of the pipe. if the location of the condenser and evaporator switch.2.3 THERMAL DIODE 15 .Heat Pipes diode. FIGURE 4. This makes it so that the liquid will not be able to travel down the length of the heat pipe until the condenser and evaporator switch again to heat the liquid to the gaseous phase so it can flow down the pipe once more.

Hence. provide an essentially isothermal environment with very small temperature gradients between the individual components. and dissipating this heat to the surrounding environment.Heat Pipes CHAPTER 5: APPLICATIONS IN THE ELECTRONICS INDUSTRY-5. removing heat from these devices. Direct cooling methods are capable of attaining extremely high heat flux levels. bulky aluminum or copper fin structures of complex geometries that are currently the industry standard. Thermal control schemes to remove heat from individual devices and systems include the traditional means of free and forced gaseous and liquid convection as well as conduction and radiation or combinations thereof. Investigations have demonstrated that an increase in temperature of as little as 100C can reduce the reliability of some systems by as much as 50%. For this reason. because of their high thermal conductivity. to maintain relatively constant component temperature equal to or below the manufacture's maximum specified service temperature. This review of applications includes recent advances and developments that affect the 16 . Although an issue of considerable discussion. indirect cooling strategies appear to be the best near-term solution for the thermal control of advanced computer architectures. but they present problems with contamination and are extremely expensive. The high heat transfer characteristics. Heat pipes. they are an acceptable alternative to the large. and the diversity and variability of evaporator and condenser sizes make the heat pipe an effective device for the thermal control of electronic components.1 INTRODUCTION The thermal control of electronic components has one principal objective. it is limited in the heat removal rate by the convection coefficient. Although air cooling is the best understood and most frequently used technique. the ability to maintain constant evaporator temperatures under different heat flux levels. new thermal control schemes must be capable of eliminating hot spots within the electronic devices.

A series of fins attached to the condenser end of the heat pipe provides the mechanism for heat rejection to a coolant. Fig. The applications fall into three categories: indirect.Heat Pipes implementation of heat pipes in the thermal control of electronic devices. 5.5. series of components. thyristors. where a heat pipe is used to control the temperature in equipment cabinets or systems. or methanol as the working fluid. The simplest heat pipe heat sinks are cylindrical with a copper or aluminum case and water.2 INDIRECT HEAT PIPE THERMAL CONTROL :Because of the high effective conductivity of heat pipes compared to that of conventional heat sinks. and system level heat pipes. These components are often mounted on the evaporator portion of the pipe and attached mechanically. Using this configuration. 17 . and entire printed wire boards. heat pipes have been proposed and selected for thermal control of individual components. either through free or forced convection to a gas or a liquid. acetone.2 heat pipe heat sink for power transistors. heat can be removed from power transistors. where the heat pipe is placed in contact with the component or device is an integral part of the heat pipe and / or is in direct contact with the working fluid. or individual chips.

or a series of axial grooves. which could be constructed from screen.1 Semiconductor Chip Cooling:In this conceptual design.heat pipe concept. 18 . 5.2. it was proposed that the back of the integrated circuit chip be bonded to the evaporator portion of a heat pipe evaporator. Fig.5. a wickless heat pipe "so small that the mean curvature of the vapor-liquid interface is necessarily comparable in magnitude to the reciprocal of the hydraulic radius of the flow channel" can also be used.2. where heat would be dissipated by free convection.2. A porous wicking material lining the inside circumference of the heat pipe would connect the evaporator and condenser. this need not be the case.2.1 illustrates this design. that is.Heat Pipes 5. sintered powder. 5. Fig. Micro.2 Micro Heat Pipe:Although all of the previously discussed applications are relatively large compared to the size of most semiconductor devices.2 shows a micro heat pipe.

Heat Pipes 19 .

nucleate pool boiling will result in an increased temperature drop. The first is to make the device an integral part of the wick structure to ensure that fresh liquid always remains in contact with the heat source.3 DIRECT HEAT PIPE THERMAL CONTROL :Where the electrical power is high and the heat rejection requirements large. 20 . This two-phase loop (i. and the return of the condensate) is viewed as one form of a two-phase. Second. the maximum permissible level of the evaporator heat flux. the vapor completely blankets the heat source and results in an increased temperature drop. closed loop thermosyphon. the condensation of the vapor. While not as potentially damaging as film boiling.3 shows c\s of heat pipe cooled MIC RF transistor.Heat Pipes 5. creating high frequency mechanical vibration and subsequent failure. Two techniques have been investigated to reduce this temperature drop. the formation and collapse of vapor bubbles may generate dynamic forces on the chips and leads.e. Fluid near the saturation temperature typically results in nucleate pool boiling and requires the use of a vapor space condenser. the presence of vapor bubbles may decrease the electric breakdown voltage of the dielectric fluid. The generation of vapor bubble imposes several problems on the thermal control of electronic devices. leading to dryout and overheating.. it may be necessary to control the temperature by immersing the devices in a dielectric fluid. First and most important among these is the critical heat flux. Fig. the boiling of the liquid. Third and finally. 5. Beyond this level. The second is the direct evaporation (with no bubble nucleation) of a very thin liquid film.

Heat Pipes 21 .

Heat pipes with 90 deg. as shown in Fig.4 COOLING OF PCBs: A PCB has a high power dissipation and relatively large heat flow path to the heat sink. Heat pipes can be added to back surface of PCB to sharply increase heat transferred from centre to the edges. The resulting temperature rise is excessive.4(b).4(a) illustrates this type.Sometimes cooling fins are extended to improve cooling. unless a high interface pressure device such as wedge clamp. Fig. 5. bend to improve heat transfer from circuit boards that do not plug in. A high temperature rise may still occur at the interface of PCB with chassis cold plate. is use.5. 5. Heat pipes are used along length of the fin. along metal strips laminated to the PCB. as shown in Fig. Plugin PCBs are then used to support electronic components.Heat Pipes 5. These are cooled by conducting heat. 22 . Many systems utilize air-cooled cold plates for the sidewalls of the chassis.4(c).

Heat Pipes 23 .

allows the heat to be absorbed as a high heat flux (i. a heat pipe.2 C/ Watt or even lower with fins. a correctly designed system will last indefinitely). Extremely low thermal resistance. Extremely light weight & miniatursed.e. 2. 5. as a transformer. 7. Heat pipes used in electronics component cooling eliminate hot spots due to isothermal nature. implying high reliability (in fact. 4. No moving parts & no external power required. Finally . 3. 6. of the order of 0. over a large area).Heat Pipes CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION 6. 9. The absence of gravitational forces improves their performance in space applications.1 ADVANTAGES OF HEAT PIPES: 1. 8. 24 . Heat pipes are ruggedly built and can withstand a lot of abuse .e over small area) and transferred from the heat pipe with a low heat flux (i. Completely silent and reversible in operation. Heat transport capacity of 100-500 Watts/Cm2 and even much higher capacity values can be obtained.

Small semiconductor chips are now easily cooled using concept of heat pipes. 25 . Apart from a few limitations.Heat Pipes Thus. it can be seen that concept of heat pipes has benefited the Electronic Industry to a large extent. Reversibility of heat pipes has made them further flexible in use. Limited space requirement is the main cause of it’s use in electronics. heat pipes have proved to be a boon to electronic industry.

5) www.ot.Sukhatme “Heat Transfer” Orient Longman Publication 1989.P. Inc.Dunn & D. 2) S.heatpipes.Heat Pipes REFERENCES 1) D.A. 4) www.P. Peterson “An Introduction To Heat Pipes” John Wiley & Sons.Chisolm “The Heat Pipes” Mills & Boon Publication Limited 1971 First Edition.electronics-cooling. 3) The Internet 26 .Reay “Heat Pipes” Pergamon Press Third Edition. Third Edition.