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Fundamentals of Heat

With Applications to Electronics
-- Widah Saied

Things to be discussed:

Basic components
Ideal thermodynamic cycle
Heat transfer limitations
Resistance network
Wick design
Choosing the working fluid
Container design
Heat pipes in electronics cooling
Current research in electronics cooling

Basic Components
Adiabatic section




Advantages of Heat Pipes

Very high thermal conductivity. Less

temperature difference needed to transport
heat than traditional materials (thermal
conductivity up to 90 times greater than
copper for the same size)
resulting, in
low thermal resistance.
(Faghiri, 1995)


Power flattening. A constant condenser heat

flux can be maintained while the evaporator
experiences variable heat fluxes.
(Faghiri, 1995)

Efficient transport of concentrated heat.

(Faghiri, 1995)

Advantages of Heat Pipes

Temperature Control. The evaporator and

condenser temperature can remain nearly
constant (at Tsat) while heat flux into the
evaporator may vary
(Faghiri, 1995)

Geometry control. The condenser and

evaporator can have different areas to fit
variable area spaces
. High heat flux
inputs can be dissipated with low heat flux
outputs only using natural or forced convection
(Faghiri, 1995)


Thermodynamic Cycle

1-2 Heat applied to evaporator through external

sources vaporizes working fluid to a saturated(2) or
superheated (2) vapor.
2-3 Vapor pressure drives vapor through adiabatic
section to condenser.
3-4 Vapor condenses, releasing heat to a heat sink.
4-1 Capillary pressure created by menisci in wick
pumps condensed fluid into evaporator section.
Process starts over.

(Faghiri, 1995)

Ideal Thermodynamic Cycle

(Faghiri, 1995)

Heat Pipe Applications

Electronics cooling- small high performance components

cause high heat fluxes and high heat dissipation demands.
Used to cool transistors and high density semiconductors.

Aerospace- cool satellite solar array, as well as shuttle

leading edge during reentry.

Heat exchangers- power industries use heat pipe heat

exchangers as air heaters on boilers.

Other applications- production tools, medicine and human

body temperature control, engines and automotive industry.

(Faghiri, 1995)

Types of Heat Pipes

Thermosyphon- gravity assisted wickless heat pipe. Gravity is

used to force the condensate back into the evaporator. Therefore,
condenser must be above the evaporator in a gravity field.

Leading edge- placed in the leading edge of hypersonic vehicles

to cool high heat fluxes near the wing leading edge. (Faghiri, 1995)

Rotating and revolving- condensate returned to the evaporator

through centrifugal force. No capillary wicks required. Used to
cool turbine components and armatures for electric motors.

Cryogenic- low temperature heat pipe. Used to cool optical

instruments in space. (Peterson, 1994)

Types of Heat Pipes

Flat Plate- much like traditional cylindrical heat pipes but

are rectangular. Used to cool and flatten temperatures of
semiconductor or transistor packages assembled in arrays
on the top of the heat pipe.


Types of Heat Pipes

Micro heat pipes- small heat pipes that are noncircular and use angled
corners as liquid arteries. Characterized by the equation: rc /rh1 where rc
is the capillary radius, and rh is
the hydraulic radius of the flow
channel. Employed in cooling
semiconductors (improve
thermal control), laser diodes,
photovoltaic cells, medical


Types of Heat Pipes

Variable conductance- allows variable heat fluxes into the evaporator

while evaporator temperature remains constant by pushing a noncondensable gas into the condenser when heat fluxes are low and
moving the gas out of the condenser when heat fluxes are high, thereby,
increasing condenser surface area. They come in various forms like
excess-liquid or gas-loaded form. The gas-loaded form is shown below.
Used in electronics cooling. (Faghiri,1995)

Types of Heat Pipes

Capillary pumped loop heat pipe- for systems where the heat fluxes are
very high or where the heat from the heat source needs to be moved far
away. In the loop heat pipe, the vapor travels around in a loop where it
condenses and returns to the evaporator. Used in electronics cooling.

(Faghiri, 1995)

Main Heat Transfer Limitations

Capillary limit- occurs when the capillary pressure is

too low to provide enough liquid to the evaporator
from the condenser. Leads to dryout in the
evaporator. Dryout prevents the thermodynamic
cycle from continuing and the heat pipe no longer
functions properly.

Boiling Limit- occurs when the radial heat flux into

the heat pipe causes the liquid in the wick to boil
and evaporate causing dryout.
(Faghiri, 1995)

Heat Transfer Limitations

Entrainment Limit- at high vapor velocities, droplets of liquid in the

wick are torn from the wick and sent into the vapor. Results in

Sonic limit- occurs when the vapor velocity reaches sonic speed
at the evaporator and any increase in pressure difference will not
speed up the flow; like choked flow in converging-diverging
nozzle. Usually occurs during startup of heat pipe.

Viscous Limit- at low temperatures the vapor pressure difference

between the condenser and the evaporator may not be enough to
overcome viscous forces. The vapor from the evaporator doesnt
move to the condenser and the thermodynamic cycle doesnt
(Faghiri, 1995)

Heat Transfer Limitations

Each limit has its own particular range in which it is important. However,
in practical operation, the capillary and boiling limits are the most
important. The figure below is an example of these ranges.


Heat Transfer Limitations

Actual performance curves, capillary limit and boiling limit, are the
limiting factors.

Capillary Limit

For a heat pipe to function properly, the capillary pressure must

be greater or equal to the sum of the pressure drops due to
inertial, viscous, and hydrostatic forces, as well as, pressure

If it is not, then the working fluid is not supplied rapidly enough to

the evaporator to compensate for the liquid loss through
vaporization. If this occurs, there is dryout in the evaporator.

(Peterson, 1994)

Capillary Limit

Equation for minimum capillary pressure:

(Peterson, 1994)

Boiling Limit

The Boiling limit is due to excessive radial heat flux; all the other
limits are due to axial heat flux.
The maximum heat flux beyond which bubble growth will occur
resulting in dryout is given by:

(Peterson, 1994)

Boiling Limit

Keff given by the table below:

Kl=therm. cond. Liquid, kw=therm. cond. wick

=thickness of tube, =wick porosity

Resistance Network

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipe Resistance

In certain applications the temperature difference between the evaporator and the
condenser needs to be known, such as in electronics cooling. This may be done
using a thermal circuit.

The main resistances within the heat pipe are:

Rw,a liquid-wick resistance in the adiabatic section
Rp,a axial resistance of the pipe wall
Rw,e liquid-wick resistance in the evaporator
Rw,c liquid-wick resistance in the condenser
Rp,e radial resistance of the pipe wall at the evaporator
Rp,c radial resistance of the pipe wall at the condenser

Order of Magnitude


Other resistances exist but most are small relative to the above
The external resistances the resistances transferring the heat to and
from the heat pipe are also important in some cases.
(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipe Resistance

The liquid-wick combination for the three heat pipe

sections are given by:
Rw _

ln( d o / d i )
2L_ K eff

Keff given on a previous slide

The radial and axial resistances can be determined

from traditional resistance equations for cylindrical
shapes and flat plates depending on the shape of the
heat pipe.
(Peterson, 1994)

The Wick and its Design

Main Purpose- provides structure and force that

transports the condensate liquid back to the
evaporator. Also, ensures working fluid is evenly
distributed over evaporator surface.

(Peterson, 1994)

Capillary Pressure

The driving force that transports the condensed

working liquid through the wick to the evaporator
is provided by capillary pressure. Working fluids
that are employed in heat pipes have concave
facing menisci (wetting liquids) as opposed to
convex facing menisci (non wetting liquids).

Contact angle is defined as the angle between

the solid and vapor regions. Wetting fluids have
angles between 0 and 90 degrees. Non wetting
fluids have angles between 90 and 180 degrees.
(Faghiri, 1995)

Capillary Pressure

Wetting angle

Wetting liquid

Non wetting liquid

Capillary Pressure

The shape of a fluids meniscus is dependent on the fluids

surface tension and the solid-fluid adhesion force. If the adhesion
force is greater than the surface tension, the liquid near the solid
will be forced up and the surface tension of the liquid will keep the
surface intact causing the entire liquid to move up.

When the liquid in the evaporator vaporizes, the radius of

curvature of the menisci in the wick decreases. As the vapor
condenses in the condenser, the radius of curvature of the
menisci in the wick increases. The difference in the radius of
curvature results in capillary pressure (Peterson,1994) . Capillary
pressure is also due to body forces and phase-change
interactions (Faghiri, 1995).

Capillary Pressure

The capillary pressure created by two menisci of

different radii of curvature is given by


Where RI and RII are radii of curvature and

is the surface tension.
Called the Young-Laplace Equation


Capillary Pressure

To maximize capillary pressure, the minimum radii is needed.

For a circular capillary the minimum radii is :

(R I , R II ) min

Substituting these values into the formula for capillary pressure:



2 cos

For max capillary pressure theta must be zero


Capillary Pressure

Wetting fluids have a cos value that will be positive.

This results in a positive capillary pressure that
creates a pushing force on the liquid in the wick near
the condenser; this forces the liquid to move to the

Non-wetting fluids will have cos values that are

negative, resulting in a negative capillary pressure that
creates a suction force on the liquid in the wick. The
liquid is prevented from moving to the evaporator.

For this reason, the working liquid in heat pipes must

be a wetting liquid.


Wick Design

Two main types of wicks: homogeneous and


Homogeneous- made from one type of material or

machining technique. Tend to have either high
capillary pressure and low permeability or the other
way around. Simple to design, manufacture, and
(Faghiri, 1995)

Composite- made of a combination of several types or

porosities of materials and/or configurations. Capillary
pumping and axial fluid transport are handled
. Tend to have a higher capillary
limit than homogeneous wicks but cost more

(Faghiri, 1995).

Wick Design

Three properties effect wick design:

1. High pumping pressure- a small capillary pore radius

(channels through which the liquid travels in the wick)
results in a large pumping (capillary) pressure.
2. Permeability - large pore radius results in low liquid
pressure drops and low flow resistance.
Design choice should be made that balances large
capillary pressure with low liquid pressure drop.
Composite wicks tend to find a compromise between
the two.
3.Thermal conductivity - a large value will result in a
small temperature difference for high heat fluxes.

Wick Design


Choosing the Working Fluid

Heat pipes work on a cycle of vaporization and condensation of

the working fluid, which results in the heat pipes high thermal
conductivity. When choosing a working fluid for a heat pipe, the
fluid must be able to operate within the heat pipes operating
temperature range. For instance, if the operating temperatures
are too high, the fluid may not be able to condense. However, if
the operating temperatures are too low the fluid will not be able to
evaporate. Watch the saturation temperature for your desired
fluid at the desired heat pipe internal pressure.

In addition, the working fluid must be compatible with the wick

and container material.
(Peterson, 1994).

Choosing the Working Fluid


temperature ranges for various working fluids:

Choosing the Working Fluid

Generally, as the operating temperature

range of the working fluid increases, the
heat transport capability increases.

Choice of working fluid should also

incorporate the fluids interactions with
the heat pipe container and wick.

(Peterson, 1994).

Choosing the Working Fluid

Chi(1976) developed a parameter of gauging
the effectiveness of a working fluid called the
liquid transport factor:
Where is the latent heat of vaporization and is the surface
tension. Subscript l refers to the liquid

For electronics cooling applications, occurring

in low to moderate temperatures, water is the
liquid with the highest liquid transport factor.
Another common fluid is ammonia.
(Peterson, 1994).

Container Design

Things that should be considered for

container design:

Operating temperature range of the heat pipe.

Internal operating pressure and container structural
Evaporator and condenser size and shape.
Possibility of external corrosion.
Prevent leaks.
Compatibility with wick and working fluid.


Container Design


Since the heat pipe is like a pressure vessel

it must satisfy ASME pressure vessel

Typically the maximum allowable stress at

any given temperature can only be onefourth of the materials maximum tensile

(peterson, 1994)

Container Design

Typical materials:
Stainless steel
Composite materials
High temperature heat pipes may use
refractory materials or linings to prevent

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat pipe Compatibility

When designing a heat pipe, the working fluid, wick, and container must
function properly when operating together. For example, the working fluid
may not be wettable with the wick; or the fluid and container may
undergo a chemical reaction with each other.

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat pipe Compatibility

Working fluid/

(Faghiri, 1995)

Heat Sink/Source Interface

The contact resistance between the

evaporator and the heat source and between
the condenser and the heat sink is relatively
large and should be minimized.

Methods used to join the parts include use of

thermally conductive adhesives, as well as,
brazed, or soldered techniques.
(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Cooling of electronics has one primary goal: maintain

a components temperatures at or below the
manufacturers maximum allowable temperature. As
the temperature of an electronic part increases the
rate of failure increases.

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Heat pipes are excellent candidates for electronics

cooling because of their high thermal conductivity,
high heat transfer characteristics, they provide
constant evaporator temperatures with variable heat
fluxes, and variable evaporator and condenser sizes.

Therefore, they are good alternatives to large heat

sinks, especially in laptops where space is limited.

They are good alternative to air cooling because of

their better heat transport capabilities. Air cooling may
still be used to remove heat from the condenser.

(Peterson, 1994).

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Common heat pipes used in electronics


Micro heat pipes

Capillary looped heat pipes
Flat plate heat pipes
Variable conductance heat pipes

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

In single component cooling, the heat pipes

evaporator may be attached to an individual heat
source (power transistor, thyristor, or chip).

The condenser is attached to a heat sink to dissipate

the heat through free or forced convection.

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Cooling can also occur with multiple arrays of devices

or entire printed wiring boards.

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

An arrayed heat pipe cooling system

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Heat pipe cooling a component set up in an array

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Since many semiconductors are small,

micro heat pipes may be used for cooling
individual semiconductors or an array.
Good for applications
where space is limited
like laptops.

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

When the electrical power is high and

the heat rejection requirements large
and nucleate pool boiling occurs,
another method of cooling a heat source
may be employed.
Nucleate pool boiling causes a large
temperature drop. To reduce the drop,
you can make the device a part of the
wick structure to ensure that fresh liquid
is always in contact with the heat
source. Further providing cooling to the

In the image to the right the heat source (a transistor

chip) is in contact with the working liquid and the
working liquid is being evaporated away, cooling the

(Peterson, 1994)

Heat Pipes in Electronics Cooling

Heat pipes enable devices with higher
density heat dissipation requirements and
greater reliability.
Low cost
Proven alternative to conventional methods
of electronics cooling.

(Peterson, 1994)

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Laptops today perform well and are small;

therefore, they have high heat dissipation

Excess heat may slow down the processors

speed or shut the laptop off.
(Junnarkar, 2003)

First time a heat pipe used in a laptop was in

1994. Current heat pipes move the heat from
the CPU to a small heat sink.
(Ali et al., 1999)

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Because micro heat pipes are small they are

very useful in cooling of laptops where space
is highly restricted.

Wang and Peterson (2003) have come up with

two different micro heat pipe setups for laptop

Micro heat pipes configured into flat plate shapes were

employed to cool a CPU. The condenser was attached to a
heat sink. The heat sink was smaller in size than one not
attached to a heat pipe because the base of the heat sink
attached to a heat pipe experiences more uniform
temperatures and therefore, an increased efficiency.

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Two different configurations were developed

Both were 152.4 mm long and 25.4 mm wide
Layers of copper screen mesh, with parallel wires and
two copper sheets were formed, in the shape of a flat
heat pipe, to form an enclosed space.
No capillary wick structure needed because of the
micro heat pipes sharp corners.
The fan is strategically placed to provide forced
convection to the heat sink.

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Main Results:
In configuration 1, tilt angle effected the
amount of heat dissipated
In configuration 2, tilt angle had no effect
on amount dissipated.
Important because laptops experience
operation in many orientations.

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Mesh number is defined as the number of openings per linear inch. (About,2006)

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Things that increased heat transport

Increasing mesh number
Increasing wire diameter

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

The thermal resistance from the heat sink to the device

junction, due to the cooling of the heat pipe with forced
convection, is greater for case 1 than case 2 at all air
velocities. The values were determined from the relation:


T j Ta


Where Qc is the heat dissipated through the heat sink

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Other discoveries:
Within the CPUs operating temperature
limit, the heat capacity of a micro heat pipe
is restricted by the heat sinks ability to
transfer heat through convection
Heat transfer not restricted by the capillary

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

The maximum heat transfer limit provided by the heat pipe, for the most part,
is not reached due to deficiencies in the heat sinks ability to transfer
heat through convection.

Current Research in Electronics Cooling

Case 2 provided a lower thermal

resistance and a greater heat transport
capacity than Case 1.

Case 2 transported 52W at 85C and .85 C /W resistance.

Case 1 transported 24W at 85C and 1.55 C /W resistance.


About, Inc. (2006). May 2006.

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