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Experimental and Numerical Study of Thermal Interface Material Performance
Keywords: Thermal interface material, Thermal testing, Finite element modeling
The thermal resistance of an interface can be decreased by the use of a thermal interface material (TIM). Through conformability improvement, we have obtained high-performance TIMs. That the solid component does not have to be high in thermal conductivity or volume fraction widens the choice of solid components (carbon black, fumed alumina, fumed zinc oxide, nanoclay, graphite nanoplatelet, etc.) and lowers the cost. Carbon black and fumed oxides are attractive in their being in the form of agglomerates of nanoparticles and the consequent squishability (conformability). Their performance is superior to that of a carbon nanotube array. This work provides the first finite-element thermal modeling of TIM performance. The modeling was conducted for various combinations of TIM attributes and use conditions. The thermal conductivity of the TIM becomes more important as the thickness of the TIM increases and as the surface roughness increases; the interfacial conductance (i.e., the reciprocal of the interfacial resistivity, which is the product of the interfacial resistance and the true interface area, with the interface referring to that between the TIM and one of the proximate surfaces) becomes more important as the true interface area decreases. Furthermore, the relative importance of the various factors is addressed for two contrasting thermal pastes one being highly conformable (carbon black paste) and the other being high in thermal conductivity (a metal particle paste). The performance of both pastes was thus found to be most affected by the conductance of the interface between TIM and each of the two proximate surfaces (copper in our modeling and experiment), except that the performance of the carbon black paste in case of rough surfaces (15 m) is most affected by the TIM thickness. Good agreement is found between modeling and experimental results.
Parisa Pour Shahid Saeed Abadi, Graduate Student
University at Buffalo, State University of New York
Buffalo, NY
USA


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