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Investigation of phase change materials for efficient thermal management of electronic modules
Keywords: thermal management, phase change materials, coating material
Power electronics is a key technology for the advancement and spreading of electromobility applications and compact power supply devices on the market. The use of new WBG semiconductors (e.g. SiC, GaN) as well as highly integrated silicon-based power electronics enables a significant increase in power density with increasing integration. At the same time, however, this development requires costly thermal management solutions, since the power semiconductors generate considerable heat loss during operation. To ensure the robustness of the systems, the components must be protected from critical temperatures. Nowadays, a considerable effort for active and passive cooling by fans, microfluidic systems or heat pipes is operated. Compared with that, the usage of phase change materials (PCM) is a novel approach for sophisticated thermal management [1], [2]. In this paper the main results of actual research project SWE-eT (Heat- retaining coatings for next- generation, efficient, compact power electronics) funded as part of KomroL program (Compact and robust power electronics of the next generation) of German Federal Ministry of Education and Research are presented. Main goal of this project is development, investigation and testing of efficient thermal management solutions based on heat-storing layer systems through phase transition processes. The research project was focused on investigation of sugar alcohols as PCM because of its wide range of melting temperature, high enthalpy of fusion and low cost. Sugar alcohols can be used in form of PCM either as pure materials or as mixtures. The producing of mixture allows controlling such properties like melting temperature range, the enthalpy of fusion and phase transition dynamics [3]. Suitable material can be chosen and optimized according to thermal requirements during operation. In this project three different solutions were realized: 80-100C for passive components and small packages, 120- 140C for Si-based semiconductors and 160C for SiC-based high power semiconductors. For each solution the additional materials including the insulation of electronic components and temperature stable and at the same time elastic encapsulation of PCM materials that keeps it in form and prevent the interaction with environment were investigated. Furthermore, the method of dispensing of PCM at melted state with heated cartridge was developed and successfully tested by industrial project partner. Further improvement of sugar alcohols as PCM was done by mixing additional particles. For increasing of thermal conductivity and faster heat transfer ceramic particles and CNT were added in certain proportion. The addition of heat conductive fillers allows to melt larger volume of PCM and thus to achieve longer holding times. On the other hand other suitable particles were added for significant acceleration of the nucleation during solidification that enables faster regeneration of material and shorter cycling time. Finally the separation of fillers in PCM at melted state was prevented by special particles that at the same increase the viscosity of PCM at melted state and keeps it stable in form and position. As a final result, the PCM was modified to sophisticated phase change composite (PCC) material according to specific requirements of real electronic module. The long-term stability and applicability were tested in laboratory with specially designed demonstrator boards and at the end the optimized PCC coatings were applied to compatible industrial electronic modules and successfully tested.
Andrey Novikov, researcher
University of Rostock
Rostock, Deutschland

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