What Is Heatsink?
Modern Electronics pack an incredible amount of complexity into a very small space. Which creates a lot of heat, heat that if left unchecked could reduce the lifespan or even destroy outright. The processor that created it that’s why when you first open up a PC or other electronic device, one of the first things you will see is one or more large metal objects called Heatsinks. Inside a PC, Heatsinks will be found on the CPU graphics card, motherboard inside the power supply and even in other places as needed.
As you can see, they can look very different from each other. But, they all serve the same basic purpose to remove heat from delicate components and extend their lifetimes. Let’s walk through some of the different kinds of heatsinks you might encounter. First up is the heat spreader this is the most basic heat sink and it consists of a simple flat piece of metal. It only moderately improves heat dissipation because while metal will transfer heat to the surrounding air faster than plastic.
It would be much more effective if it also increased the size of the area of the surface. That’s being used to transfer that heat that leads us to our next common type passive pinned or finned heatsinks. These basically heat spreaders with structures on top of them that dramatically increase the surface area that can be used to dissipate heat to the surrounding air.
They are much more effective than heat spreaders but they are also more expensive to make and they take up more space speaking of taking up space. Adding a fan to blow air directly, add a thinned or pinned heatsink is relatively inexpensive and very space-efficient as a means of dramatically improving heat sink performance.
For this reason, actively cooled thinned heat sinks are one of the most common types of heat sinks found in PC systems where size and cost are major design factors speaking of cost of the most effective and the most expensive common type of heat sink in a PC is a heat pipe or vapour chamber heat sink for a very hot components like CPUs or graphics cards.
The limiting factor of a standard thinned heat sinks performance is no longer. The speed at which the fins can be used to dissipate heat to the air but rather the speed at which the heat can be moved away from the very small processor core to the fins in the first place heat pipes and vapour chambers usually consist of an outer copper wall and a material inside that is constantly changing phases between liquid and gas. They can be used to carry heat away from a small heat source extremely quickly to a large array of heatsink fins where it can be dissipated to the air.
Surface area and how that helps but other factors affect heat sink performance up for example – copper performs better than aluminium as a heatsink material and among aluminium alloys, some of them are better than others. But, the material selection like many of these other factors cannot be controlled by anyone other than the manufacturer so it might not be that useful to you but what can you do to improve your heatsink performance.
1. Lower the ambient temperature if cracking open a window lowers the room temperature by five degrees. It will lower your heat sink temperature by about five degrees.
2. More airflow, the more the air moves over the heatsink, the better it will perform.
3. Better thermal interface material, no two pieces of metal will ever meet up perfectly and thermal interface materials fill in these micro gaps for better heat conduction or better heat transfer between them. Replacing the subpar solutions that come pre-installed on your components with high-performance aftermarket thermal compound can easily lower temperatures by several degrees or more.
4. Is mounting a good solid mount improves the contact between a chip and a heatsink and ensures effective thermal transfer. Often a heat sink that isn’t performing as expected is being held back by an air bubble trapped in between. Or a small component nearby that is interfering with the heat sinks mounting pressure. Speaking of mounting pressure in spite of all the hub about the NSA, your digital privacy is still under attack. So, when surfing the internet, make sure to use the VPN.
Heatsink vs. CPU Coolers: How Does Heatsinks Work?
Initially let’s talk about CPU coolers and how they work? The materials comprising the cooler cold plate or aluminium cold plate thermal conductivity heat pipe wicking vapour chambers and the fins and how it all works to conduct heat away from your CPU cores. Let’s start with the bottom-up workflow of how a CPU cooler works. First off there’s the CPU silicon which generates all of the heat.
The heat is conducted by the IHS or integrated heat spreader and from that point, the IHS is communicating through a thermal compound between the IHS and the copper cold plates of your CPU cooler or aluminium in some cases that thermal compound is critical because it fills microscopic imperfections in the service of the IHS and the service of the cold plate for the CPU cooler without this compound.
The imperfections would be filled with air which has a much lower watt per meter. Kelvin rating than thermal compound, in fact, it’s about 0.02 4 watts per meter. Kelvin for air whereas thermal compound is generally between 4 and 8 or so once the heat has been transferred to the cold plate. The next key item is heat pipes. The heat pipes make contact with the cold plate and within the heat pipes is contained and evaporator believe it or not the heat pipes contain a liquid.
It’s effectively a coolant and that is a composition of ammonium and ethanol or sometimes distilled water, the liquid is heated up by the heat generated by the CPU and that creates a phase change. This is critical to the process. There’s a ton of energy loss in the form of heat in a phase change and when that energy is lost, it’s because the liquid is now turning into a gas and so this gas starts travelling up the heat pipes at which point the heat pipes make contact with the aluminium fins.
These have a large surface area it’s another keyword here and the service area spreads the heat across the entire area of which effective layer within the aluminium fins. The fins are then cooled by the cooling fan which pushes the heat off of them and out of the case. So that the process can continue ad infinium at this point. In the process, the gas makes the way to the top of the heat pipe at which point it is condensed and through capillary action.
It tricks its way back down to the bottom and repeats the process once the gas condensed back into a liquid trickles down the sides of the heat pipe normally made an either centred groove or mesh we’ve copper grooved wicks run cleanly down the centre of the tube and sintered wicks have a more porous to them.
The weave looks like a basket weave design and the high-end air coolers will generally use a composite heat pipe instead which means it’s a compound of multiple different designs so they use a copper powder which helps with thermal transfer and also helps with these steam movements. So steam moves more quickly through the heat pipes composite and centred heat pipes cost more than grooved pipes but theoretically offer better performance and this feeds into the next point which is that material matters thermal conductivity or watts per meter.
Kelvin dictates the efficacy of cooler materials cooper has a 401 watt per meter. Kelvin thermal conductivity at 25-celsius aluminium is 205 watts per meter. Kelvin and then you have got your thermal compounds in your air after that we have tested and found that allow and copper cold plates have minimal impact on cooling performance when using liquid coolers but have not yet tested it with air coolers.
Conductive heat transfer is expressed through 40 A’s of law which is Q equals kA dT/s where an equal heat transfer area K equals the materials thermal conductivity’s equals materials thickness.
And DT is the temperature difference across the material or Delta service area and roughness also matter in this equation and larger CPUs like the LGA 2011 chips need a larger surface area cooler to contact all potential hotspots on the IHS using a cooler built for smaller CPUs like the Silverstone AR 0 1 or hyper 212 will result in a poor edge performance on larger CPUs surface roughness should also be considered as it is needed to be as close to perfectly smooth as reasonably possible indirect contact is the result of rougher surfaces and that means a loss of full potential afforded by the copper and alloy materials which have the four hundred or 200 watts per meter-Kelvin thermal conductivity measurements.
Instead, we end up relying more on the thermal compound to bridge the gaps which are significantly lower in its “K” rating than the metal and then there are vapours chambers. Vapour chambers help draw heat away from VRM coolers by hanging down from a chamber design similar to a heat pipe in some ways but they are better deployed for localized heat generation by high heat large areas like the VRM and the VRM coolers. This helps spread heat more evenly across the fins as well.
So, it’s not just the BRM benefit and few devices use of vapour chambers but the ones that do the erratic we should dissipate that heat better across the service area and draw heat away more effectively from other non-CPU components that neighbour the CPU. So, that’s everything you need to know about the basics of CPU air coolers.
The temperature difference for the kinetic energy to be exchanged. Let’s start talking about the different modes of heat transfer, conduction, convection and radiation. By far the best mode of heat transfer is conduction. Conduction is how heat is transferred within a solid material. Since the atoms are very close together, it is easy for the Kinetic energy to be exchanged materials can be classified into either conductors, insulators or semiconductors metal is a conductor.
While something like wood or glass is insulator semiconductors fall somewhere in between depending on their STE and maybe more conductive or more insulative as a general rule the more electrically conductive something is the more thermally conductive. Next is convection which is considerably worse at heat transfer than conduction, convection is how heat is transferred through a fluid whether that be air water etc. Since the atoms to spread out is harder for them to transfer energy to one another. We can easily demonstrate how much worse convection is compared to conduction with a frying pan.
I can easily hold my hand over the centre without being burned. The heat from the PAN is not being transferred to my hand, fast enough, however, if I press my hand into the PAN, I will get some nasty burn marks. The last mode of heat transfer is radiation, where the heat is transferred from the exchange of photons. This mode is by far the worst and is the working principle for vacuum flasks. Anything that has heat, gives off low-energy photos.
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