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Nanowick at heart of new system to cool 'power electronics'
Date:7/22/2010

The water then turns back to a liquid in another part of the heat pipe called the condenser.

The wick eliminates the need for a pump because it draws away fluid from the condenser side and transports it to the evaporator side of the flat device, Garimella said.

Allowing a liquid to boil dramatically increases how much heat can be removed compared to simply heating a liquid to temperatures below its boiling point. Understanding precisely how fluid boils in tiny pores and channels is helping the engineers improve such cooling systems.

The wicking part of the heat pipe is created by sintering, or fusing together tiny copper spheres with heat. Liquid is drawn sponge-like through spaces, or pores, between the copper particles by a phenomenon called capillary wicking. The smaller the pores, the greater the drawing power of the material, Garimella said.

Such sintered materials are used in commercial heat pipes, but the researchers are improving them by creating smaller pores and also by adding the carbon nanotubes.

"For high drawing power, you need small pores," Garimella said. "The problem is that if you make the pores very fine and densely spaced, the liquid faces a lot of frictional resistance and doesn't want to flow. So the permeability of the wick is also important."

The researchers are creating smaller pores by "nanostructuring" the material with carbon nanotubes, which have a diameter of about 50 nanometers, or billionths of a meter. However, carbon nanotubes are naturally hydrophobic, hindering their wicking ability, so they were coated with copper using a device called an electron beam evaporator.

"We have made great progress in understanding and designing the wick structures for this application and measuring their performance," said Garimella. He said that once ongoing efforts at packaging the new wicks into heat pipe systems that serve as the thermal ground plane are complete, devices based on the
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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