Technology borrowed from a kitchen appliance may someday cool military electronics and computer chips that are becoming more powerful and generating more heat, researchers at Purdue University have found.
The breakthrough, a micro-channel heat sink, is a 1-inch2 copper plate that contains numerous channels just 231 microns wide—about three times the width of a human hair—and 713 microns deep. Heat is removed as coolant circulates through these channels—a concept based on the evaporator component that contains a labyrinth of coolant tubing in household refrigerators.
According to the Office of Naval Research, key sponsor of the research, future warships and combat vehicles will have high-power electrical systems that generate waste heat densities approaching 1,000 W/cm2, which is beyond the cooling capacity of existing fan-based systems.
"We're trying to develop a solution before the demand is out there," comments Issam Mudawar, mechanical engineering professor and leader of the research, adding that a big mistake is to develop cooling solutions "after the fact." Mudawar, who co-authored two papers detailing the research methodologies (http://rbi.ims.ca/4391-504; http://rbi.ims.ca/4391-505), says he has received inquiries from chip manufacturers and satellite companies, as well as automakers who are developing hybrid vehicles.