dual latent heat sink, vapor chamber, thermal energy storage, phase change materials, condensation, melting


Future defense, aerospace and automotive technologies involve electronic systems that release high pulsed waste heat like during high power microwave and laser diode applications in tactical and combat aircraft, and electrical and electronic systems in hybrid electric vehicles, which will require the development of an efficient thermal management system. A key design issue is the need for fast charging so as not to overheat the key components. The goal of this work is to study the fabrication and technology implementation feasibility of a novel high energy storage, high heat flux passive heat sink. Key focus is to verify by theory and experiments, the practicability of using phase change materials as a temporary storage of waste heat for heat sink applications. The reason for storing the high heat fluxes temporarily is to be able to reject the heat at the average level when the heat source is off. Accordingly, a concept of a dual latent heat sink intended for moderate to low thermal duty cycle electronic heat sink applications is presented. This heat sink design combines the features of a vapor chamber with rapid thermal energy storage employing graphite foam inside the heat storage facility along with phase change materials and is attractive owing to its passive operation unlike some of the current thermal management techniques for cooling of electronics employing forced air circulation or external heat exchangers. In addition to the concept, end-application dependent criteria to select an optimized design for this dual latent heat sink are presented. A thermal resistance concept based design tool/model has been developed to analyze and optimize the design for experiments. The model showed that it is possible to have a dual latent heat sink design capable of handling 7 MJ of thermal load at a heat flux of 500 W/cm2 (over an area of 100 cm2) with a volume of 0.072 m3 and weighing about 57.5 kg. It was also found that with such high heat flux absorption capability, the proposed conceptual design could have a vapor-to-condenser temperature difference of less than 10 0C with a volume storage density of 97 MJ/m3 and a mass storage density of 0.122 MJ/kg. The effectiveness of this heat sink depends on the rapidness of the heat storage facility in the design during the pulse heat generation period of the duty cycle. Heat storage in this heat sink involves transient simultaneous laminar film condensation of vapor and melting of an encapsulated phase change material in graphite foam. Therefore, this conjugate heat transfer problem including the wall inertia effect is numerically analyzed and the effectiveness of the heat storage mechanism of the heat sink is verified. An effective heat capacity formulation is employed for modeling the phase change problem and is solved using finite element method. The results of the developed model showed that the concept is effective in preventing undue temperature rise of the heat source. Experiments are performed to investigate the fabrication and implementation feasibility and heat transfer performance for validating the objectives of the design i.e., to show that the VCTES heat sink is practicable and using PCM helps in arresting the vapor temperature rise in the heat sink. For this purpose, a prototype version of the VCTES heat sink is fabricated and tested for thermal performance. The volume foot-print of the vapor chamber is about 6"X5"X2.5". A custom fabricated thermal energy storage setup is incorporated inside this vapor chamber. A heat flux of 40 W/cm2 is applied at the source as a pulse and convection cooling is used on the condenser surface. Experiments are done with and without using PCM in the thermal energy storage setup. It is found that using PCM as a second latent system in the setup helps in lowering the undue temperature rise of the heat sink system. It is also found that the thermal resistance between the vapor chamber and the thermal energy storage setup, the pool boiling resistance at the heat source in the vapor chamber, the condenser resistance during heat discharging were key parameters that affect the thermal performance. Some suggestions for future improvements in the design to ease its implementation and enhance the heat transfer of this novel heat sink are also presented.


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Graduation Date



Chow, Louis


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Engineering and Computer Science


Mechanical, Materials, and Aerospace Engineering

Degree Program

Mechanical Engineering








Release Date

September 2008

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)