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Heat Pipe Technology

Heat Pipes

Heat pipes are a method of transferring large amounts of heat where there is a small Delta T (temperature difference) between the ‘hot’ and ‘cold’ ends of the heat pipe.

The great advantage with heat pipes are that they offer much lower thermal conductivity than can be achieved with a solid conductor, they are far more efficient than an equivalent cross section of copper, for example. Heat pipes contain no moving parts that can wear out, so system reliability is very high and they require no power to operate them. Heat pipes are extremely flexible cooling solutions and can be manufactured in a variety of shapes and sizes, their lightweight construction and small size make them an excellent choice for space limited systems.

Heat pipes can be cylindrical / tubular in construction or flat such as in a heat spreader but they operate in the same way. The outer shell of the heat pipe is typically made from high conductivity material such as copper or aluminium, a vacuum pump is then used to evacuate all gasses and liquids, and the heat pipe is then filled with a small amount of coolant. The coolant specified is dependant on the operating temperature but typical examples would be ethanol, acetone, water, sodium or mercury.

At the hot end of the heat pipe the coolant turns to vapour and the gas will flow to the cool end where it condenses, the liquid will then fall or will be moved by capillary action back to the hot end where it evaporates once more and repeats the cycle. The inside of the heat pipe walls can be coated with a wick structure that exerts a capillary pressure on the liquid of the coolant, if the heat pipe is operating against gravity.