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Introduction History Components of a Heat Pipe Working Applications Conclusion

What is a Heat Pipe?

A heat pipe is a simple device that can quickly transfer heat from

one point to another.

They are often referred to as the "superconductors" of heat as they possess an extra ordinary heat transfer capacity & rate with almost no heat loss.


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 in 1839. Then his brother jacob perkins patented it in 1936. with slight modification in tube by making it spiral which cause the working of two phase flow.Which is widely used in locomotive boilers or baking oven. These are known as Perkins tube. The concept of heat pipe was put forward by R.S. Gaugler of G.M. corporation in 1944.According to his patent he described how its heat pipe can be used in refrigeration systems. Almost after 1969 these pipes are used in every industries as well as in space applications. The space agnecys like NASA in US.HUGHES the European space Agnecy.These pipes are used to maintain the inside temperature in space craft.

Components of a Heat Pipe

Container Working fluid Wick or Capillary structure

The function of container is to isolate the working fluid from outside environment. It is therefore to be leak proof & maintaining the differential pressure across its walls & thus enables to transfer heat from & to working fluid.

Selection of container material depends on the following factors

Compatibility . Wettability of wick and wall materials. High thermal conductivity. Porosity. (The material should be non-porous to avoid diffusion) Ease of fabrication. Strength to weight ratio. (used in space craft application)


Pure liquids such as helium, water and liquid silver Impure solutions cause deposits on the interior of the heat pipe reducing its overall performance. The type of liquid depends on the temperature range of the application.

Prime Requirements of working fluids

Good thermal stability Wettability of wick and wall materials Vapor pressure not too high or low over the operating temperature range High latent heat High thermal conductivity Low liquid and vapor viscosities High surface tension

Examples of working fluids


The prime purpose of the wick is to generate capillary pressure to transport the working fluid from the condenser to the evaporator. Carbon fiber filaments have many fine longitudinal grooves on their surface, have high capillary pressures and are chemically stable.



Screen Mesh Wick

Utilizes multiple wire layer to form porous wick

Sintered Powder Wick

This process will provide high power handling, low temperature gradients and high capillary forces for anti-gravity applications.

How the Wick Works

Liquid flows in a wick due to capillary action.

Intermolecular forces between the wick and the fluid are stronger than the forces within the fluid.

A resultant increase in surface tension occurs.


Wick must have minimum pressure difference between the condenser and the evaporator for liquid to flow.
Dry-out occurs when there is insufficient pressure difference.

A metal cylinder is sealed within a fluid so that it can form closed system. One end of the tube is heated while other is cooled. The heat source causes the fluid to start forming vapours.& the liquid starts gaining its latent heat of vapourisation. As the gas which is at high pressure moves towards the colder side inside a sealed pipe.since the gas moves towards the colder side its phase changes from vapour to liquid. This liquid is again travel toward the hotter side of cylinder through wick for the process.In these way there is a transfer of latent heat takes place.




Spacecraft temperature equalization

Component cooling, temperature control and radiator design in satellites.


For an 8 watt CPU with an environmental temperature not greater than 400C it provides a 6.250C/Watt thermal resistance Allowing the processor to run at full capacity at any environmental condition by keeping the case temperature at 900C or less. One end of the heat pipe is attached to the processor with a thin, clip-on mounting plate. The other is attached to the heat sink, in this case, a specially designed keyboard RF shield. This approach uses existing parts to minimize weight and complexity. The heat pipe could also be attached to other physical components suitable as a heat sink to dissipate heat.


Heat Exchangers Modern Cameras Refrigerators Transistors Capacitors Field of Cryogenics


The cost of heat pipes is very competitive compared to other alternatives. Cost is partially offset and justified by improved system reliability and the increased life of cooler running electronics. Heat pipe manufacture has been a difficult area to compete in. Simple in concept, but difficult to apply commercially, the heat pipe is a very elusive technology & holds the key to the future of heat transfer & its allied applications.