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Energy Conversion and Management 187 (2019) 221–231

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Energy Conversion and Management


journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/enconman

Design, fabrication and thermal performance of a novel ultra-thin vapour T


chamber for cooling electronic devices
Zhaoshu Chena, Yong Lia, , Wenjie Zhoua, Liqiang Denga, Yuying Yanb,c,
⁎ ⁎

a
School of Mechanical and Automotive Engineering, South China University of Technology, Guangzhou 510640, China
b
Fluids & Thermal Engineering Research Group, Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, UK
c
Centre for Fluids & Thermal Engineering Research, University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China

ARTICLE INFO ABSTRACT

Keywords: In this work, a novel vapour-liquid channel-separated ultra-thin (0.4-mm-thick) vapour chamber fabricated via
Ultra-thin vapour chamber etching and diffusion bonding was designed for cooling electronic devices. The heat performance of ultra-thin
Vapour-liquid channel separation vapour chamber was tested under five states, and micropillar arrays were etched into the chamber to study their
Mesh wick effect on heat transfer. Additionally, infrared thermal imaging was performed to investigate the heat dissipation
Cooling module
of cooling modules with and without the ultra-thin vapour chamber. The maximum heat transfer capacity of the
Thermal performance
Heat dissipation
ultra-thin vapour chamber in the horizontal state was 4.50 W, and the temperature difference was 4.75 °C. The
experimentally measured values were very close to the theoretical capillary limit. Under normal and reverse
gravities, the maximum heat transfer capacity changed by less than 11%. The effective thermal conductivity of
the ultra-thin vapour chamber was 12000 W/(m·K), which is 30 times higher than that of pure copper. The
cooling module with the ultra-thin vapour chamber exhibited better heat dissipation, thermal uniformity and
thermal response properties. When the heating input power was 6 W, the heating block temperature, maximum
surface temperature difference and equilibrium time of the cooling module with the ultra-thin vapour chamber
were 8%, 54% and 32% lower, respectively, than those of the module without the ultra-thin vapour chamber.
The proposed cooling solution is promising for heat dissipation problems in high-power portable electronic
devices.

1. Introduction and LED modules. However, the dimensions of conventional heat pipes
cannot meet the requirements of portable electronic devices. Re-
In recent years, portable electronic devices have been developed searchers have shown that the thickness requirement for heat pipes to
with increasingly high performance, light weights and thin profiles; the be used in portable electronic devices is usually below 2 mm [4]. For
smartphone is a typical example. At present, the power consumption of example, the thickness of the heat pipe used by Samsung in the Galaxy
the CPU processor in a typical smartphone has reached 3–5 W [1] (e.g., S7 is only 0.4 mm [5]. Such a small thickness poses great difficulties in
the power consumption of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 is up to heat pipe design and manufacturing.
4.6 W [2]), while device thickness is generally less than 8 mm; some Based on the different manufacturing methods used, ultra-thin heat
devices have reached thicknesses of less than 6 mm, with waterproof pipes can be divided into two categories. One category consists of ultra-
and dustproof features. The need to operate in such a narrow and thin flattened heat pipes (UTFHPs), which are formed via the phase
confined space makes heat dissipation from the chip very difficult. change flattening of thin-walled pipes [7]. The manufacturing process
As shown in Fig. 1, early smartphones employed graphite sheets and has been described in detail in the previous paper by Zhou et al. [8],
metal back covers to dissipate heat. With such a structure, heat is and many scholars have studied wick structures for UTFHPs. Li et al.
transmitted to the metal back cover by a large-area graphite sheet [9] designed a novel sintered wick structure called a bilateral arch-
covering the chip; however, this method is only suitable in cases of shaped sintered wick that was sintered in the middle of its copper
relatively low power consumption [3]. Heat pipes, as high-efficiency container and had vapour flow channels located on both sides. The
thermally conductive components that utilize the phase change prin- maximum thickness of the wick, the flattened thickness, and the copper
ciple, have been widely used in desktops, laptops, aerospace equipment powder of the corresponding UTFHP were analysed. The thickness of


Corresponding authors at: Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham, NG7 2RD, UK (Y. Yan).
E-mail addresses: meliyong@scut.edu.cn (Y. Li), Yuying.Yan@nottingham.ac.uk (Y. Yan).

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enconman.2019.03.038
Received 24 December 2018; Received in revised form 15 March 2019; Accepted 15 March 2019
Available online 19 March 2019
0196-8904/ © 2019 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Z. Chen, et al. Energy Conversion and Management 187 (2019) 221–231

Nomenclature Keff effective thermal conductivity (W/m·K)


T temperature (°C)
Symbols R thermal resistance (°C/W)
P heating input power (W)
L length (mm)
W width (mm) Greek symbols
th thickness (mm)
p micropillar diameter (mm) surface tension of the working fluid (N/m)
ap micropillar spacing (mm) contact angle (°)
Lp length of a micropillar array (mm) µ dynamic viscosity (Pa·s)
Pcap maximum capillary pressure (Pa) density (kg/m3)
Pv drop in vapour flow pressure (Pa) wick porosity (mm)
Pl drop in liquid flow pressure (Pa) filling ratio (%)
Pg drop in gravitational pressure (Pa)
reff effective capillary radius of the wick (m) Subscripts
'
Qmax capillary limit (W)
Leff effective length of the UTVC (mm) l liquid phase
A cross-sectional area (mm2) w wick
rh hydraulic radius of the wick (mm) v vapour phase
Cl wetted perimeter of the liquid channel (mm) e evaporation section
K wick permeability (mm2) a adiabatic section
N mesh number c condensation section
Vfw volume of water filling the UTVC (mm3) UTVC ultra-thin vapour chamber
Vp total pore volume of the wick (mm3) max maximum
H latent heat of the working fluid (J/kg) min minimum

Fig. 1. Comparison of the cooling methods used in Samsung smartphones [6].

such a heat pipe is 1.0–1.5 mm, and the maximum heat transfer capa- thermal performance of UTFHPs. Tang et al. [13] studied the effects of
city is 25 W. Zhou et al. [10] investigated the thermal performance of deposition time and sintering temperature on the capillary force of
0.8-mm-thick UTFHPs with sintered copper foam-mesh wicks. The SWM wicks. Singh et al. [14] designed a UTFHP cooling module with a
maximum temperature difference is 3.7 °C in the case of the maximum piezo fan and tested the thermal performances of UTFHPs with thick-
heat transport capacity of 5 W. Li et al. [11] studied three composite nesses of 0.6–2 mm. As the UTFHP thickness increased, the maximum
wick structures, namely, a single arch-shaped sintered-grooved wick, a heat transfer capacity of the UTFHP also increased. Ahamed et al. [15]
bilateral arch-shaped sintered-grooved wick, and a mesh-grooved wick, investigated the effects of the width, flattened thickness, and effective
to improve the thermal performance of 1.0-mm-thick UTFHPs. The length of a UTFHP on its thermal performance. The maximum heat
maximum heat transport capacity was found to be 14 W for mesh- transport capacity of a 0.4-mm UTFHP was found to be only 1.5 W.
grooved wicks. Recently, a kind of spiral woven mesh (SWM) wick has Zhou et al. [16] designed a UTFHP with an SWM wick and tested its
attracted increasing attention. An SWM wick consists of a stranded thermal performance, and the thickness and the maximum heat trans-
copper wire formed by arranging a specific number of copper wires side port capacity of the UTFHP were 0.4 mm and 3.6 W, respectively. In all
by side on a spindle. This structure is well suited for the manufacturing of the UTFHPs mentioned above, the “centre fibre wick” structure was
of UTFHPs. Yang et al. [12] designed an SWM wick structure with a adopted, in which the liquid channel is located in the middle of the
superhydrophilic treatment that is applicable for UTFHPs. By oxidizing UTFHP and the vapour channels are located on both sides of the
the surfaces of the copper wires, the thermal performance of the UTFHP UTFHP.
can be greatly enhanced. Zhou et al. [8] designed three different SWM UTFHPs have the advantages of simple manufacturing and high heat
wicks to study the effects of their characteristic parameters on the transfer performance, but the external area of a UTFHP is small, and it

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can be fabricated in only a single shape. The width of a UTFHP is based UTVCs due to the low thermal conductivity of polymer.
limited by the diameter of the pipe and the thickness to which it is In the present study, a novel vapour-liquid channel-separated metal-
flattened, and it is difficult to make UTFHPs with arbitrary based UTVC was designed. Unlike in UTFHPs, in which the vapour and
length–width ratios. The other form of UTHP is an ultra-thin vapour liquid channel structures are located in the same plane, the vapour and
chamber (UTVC). A UTVC consists of an upper cover, a lower cover and liquid channels of the UTVC in the present study are located in the
a wick, and it is packaged by means of bonding technology, which upper and lower layers, respectively. An analytical model for predicting
provides control over the external surface dimensions and shape of the the maximum heat transport capacity was developed. A low-cost mass
heat pipe in accordance with practical demands. Lv et al. [17] designed production process for the proposed UTVC design was investigated, in
a UTVC with a sintered hybrid powder wick and tested the thermal which the vapour and liquid channels are prepared on the copper
performance at various angles. The overall dimensions of the UTVC substrate through an etching process and the top and bottom cover
were 100 × 50 × 2 mm3, and the maximum heat transport capacity is plates and the wick are bonded together by means of diffusion welding.
108 W with a thermal resistance of 0.196 °C/W. In the following work, To simulate the possible operation states of an actual electronic pro-
Lv et al. [18] studied the optimal charging range of the above UTVC. duct, the heat transfer performance of the UTVC was tested in five
Lee et al. [19] designed a purely metal-based UTVC in which a single- different states. Micropillars of different sizes were fabricated at either
layer copper woven mesh with a nanostructured superhydrophilic end of the UTVC. The effects of the size and spacing of the micropillars
surface was used as the liquid wicking structure, whereas a triple-layer on the heat transfer performance of the UTVC were also tested. In ad-
coarse mesh with a bare copper surface was designed for vapour dition, the thermal performance and temperature uniformity of the
transport and mechanical support. The effective thermal conductivity UTVC cooling module under natural convection were tested using an
reached 3000 W/(m·K). Oshman et al. [20] used polymer to make a infrared camera.
flexible 1.31-mm-thick UTVC; a triple-layer sintered copper woven
mesh served as the liquid wicking structure and a coarse nylon woven 2. Design and fabrication
mesh provided space for vapour transport. The thermal resistance
ranged from 1.2 to 3.0 °C/W. However, researchers have found that In this section, the structure of the vapour-liquid channel and the
some polymer UTVCs will leak [21] and produce non-condensable gas fabrication of the UTVC are presented. First, the structure of vapour-
during long-term operation [22], which will cause the vapour chambers liquid channel is introduced, and the heat transfer limit of the structure
to fail. Therefore, various composites have been used to fabricate is analysed, and then the manufacturing process of UTVCs are pre-
UTVCs. Liew et al. [23] fabricated a UTVC using printed circuit board sented.
technology. The outer casing material was copper-cladded polyimide
laminate, and the UTVC was durable, showing no observable thermal
performance degradation over 38 days. Oshman et al. [24] developed a 2.1. Vapour-liquid channel design of the ultra-thin vapour chamber
polymer-based UTVC with a thickness of 1 mm. Liquid-crystal polymer
films with copper-filled thermal vias were employed as the casing The UTVC design proposed in the present study is shown in Fig. 2.
material. The effective thermal conductivity ranged from 650 to The UTVC consists of a top plate, a copper mesh and a bottom plate.
830 W/(m·K) at different input heat fluxes and tilt angles. Lewis et al. The UTVC has a vapour-liquid channel-separated structure, and its
[25] invented a UTVC with a thickness of 0.3 mm, which was produced specific characteristics are listed in Table 1. The top and bottom plates
by forming an array of micropillars on a thin Kapton film by means of were produced via the wet etching process using 0.25-mm and 0.15-mm
photolithography. In this structure, liquid flows through the channels sheets, respectively, of copper alloy (C5210). The etching depth of the
between the micropillars. This UTVC can operate with a heat load of up top plate was 0.15 mm, and micropillar arrays of different sizes and
to 9.54 W and with an effective thermal conductivity of up to 541 W/ densities were etched at either end. The micropillars serve as supports,
(m·K). Although polymer-based UTVCs have good flexibility and are and the space between the micropillars serves as the vapour channel.
light in weight, their thermal performance is lower than that of metal- The etching depth of the bottom plate was 0.08 mm, and a No. 300
copper mesh was placed in the etched groove in the bottom plate to

Fig. 2. Schematic diagrams of the UTVC: (a) top-view schematics of the top and bottom plates; (b) cross-sectional schematic of the UTVC; (c) photographs of the
UTVC.

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Table 1 2 cos
Pcap =
Characteristics of the UTVC. reff (2)
Parameter(s) Value(s)
where is the surface tension of the working fluid, is the contact
LUTVC × WUTVC × thUTVC (mm3) 104 × 14 × 0.4 angle, and reff is the effective capillary radius of the wick. For a mesh
Vapour-liquid channel L v × Wv × thv (mm3) 97.5 × 11 × 0.23 screen, the effective capillary radius is equal to the distance between
Wick structure No. 300 Cu mesh the wires in the mesh.
Mesh wire diameter (mm) 0.0381
The vapour flow pressure drop, Pv , includes the vapour pressure
Mesh wire distance (mm) 0.0457
Micropillar structure p × ap × Lp (mm3) Coarse pillars: 1 × 3 × 30 drop in the evaporation section ( Pve ), the adiabatic section ( Pva ) and
Fine pillars: 0.5 × 2.5 × 67.5 the condensation section ( Pvc ). It can be calculated using the
Hagen–Poiseuille equation:

serve as the liquid channel of the UTVC. Fig. 3 depicts the micro- 8µ v Qmax Leff
Pv = Pve + Pva + Pvc = 2
structures of the vapour-liquid channel observed using scanning elec- v Av rh H (3)
tron microscopy (SEM).
where µ v is the dynamic viscosity of the vapour; Qmax is the maximum
heat flux at the capillary limit; Leff is the effective length of the UTVC,
which can be calculated using equation (4); v is the vapour density; Av
2.2. Capillary limit of the ultra-thin vapour chamber
is the cross-sectional area of the vapour channel; rh is the hydraulic
radius of the wick, which can be calculated using equation (5); and H is
The wick provides the driving force for the movement of liquid
the latent heat of the working fluid.
through the UTVC. The liquid in the condensation section is drawn back
into the evaporation section by capillary force, and the UTVC acts as an Le + Lc
Leff = + La
effective phase-change-based heat transfer device only when the liquid 2 (4)
in the condensation section is quickly returned to the evaporation
section to participate in the steam cycle. At normal operating tem- 2Al
rh =
peratures, the heat transfer performance of a UTVC is limited by the Cl (5)
capillary limit [10]. Therefore, once the structure of the wick has been
Here, Le , La , and Lc are the lengths of the evaporation, adiabatic and
determined, the maximum heat transfer capacity of the UTVC can be
condensation sections; Al is the cross-sectional area of the liquid
theoretically calculated. The pressure balance inside the UTVC in
channel; and Cl is the wetted perimeter of the liquid channel.
equilibrium is expressed as follows:
According to Darcy’s law, Pl can be calculated as
Pcap Pv + Pl + Pg (1) µl Leff Qmax
Pl =
K l Al H (6)
where Pcap is the capillary force provided by the wick to overcome the
drop in vapour pressure from the evaporation section to the con- where µl is the dynamic viscosity of the liquid; K is the permeability of
densation section ( Pv ), the drop in liquid pressure from the con- the wick, which can be calculated for a mesh screen using Eq. (7) [26];
densation section to the evaporation section ( Pl ), and the effect of and l is the density of the working fluid.
gravity on the liquid flow ( Pg ). The gravity term can be ignored when
the UTVC is placed horizontally. d2· 3
K=
According to the Young-Laplace formula, Pcap can be calculated as 122(1 )2 (7)

Fig. 3. SEM images of the vapour-liquid channel.

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=1
1.05 Nd evacuation [27], degassing [28] and head welding processes. The
4 (8) working fluid of the UTVC was deionized water, and the filling ratio of
Here, d is the wire diameter of the mesh; is the porosity of the the UTVC was 120%. The filling ratio is defined as
mesh screen, which can be calculated using Eq. (8) [26]; and N is the Vfw
mesh number of the mesh screen. By substituting Eqs. (2), (3), and (6) = × 100%
Vp (10)
into (1), the capillary limit of the UTVC, Qmax , can be calculated as
follows: where Vfw is the volume of water with which the UTVC is filled and Vp is
1
the total volume of the pores in the wick; Vp could be calculated by
2 cos 8µ v µl soaking the wick in deionized water until it reached a saturation point.
Qcp,max = +
reff Leff 2
v Av rh H K l Al H (9) The evacuation and degassing processes were performed to ensure that
a high level of vacuum was achieved in the UTVC. First, in the eva-
The physical parameters of water at 55 °C are shown in Table 2, and
cuation process, most of the air in the UTVC was evacuated with a
the remaining parameters needed for the calculations can be found in
vacuum pump. Then, in the degassing process, additional air was re-
Table 1. Suppose is 0 ° here, the capillary limit of the UTVC studied in
moved via boiling. By heating the bottom of the UTVC, the non-con-
this paper is 4.87 W.
densable gas in the tube was forced to accumulate in the upper part of
the charging pipe, and this section of the pipe was then cut away to
2.3. Fabrication of the ultra-thin vapour chamber further enhance the degree of vacuum. Finally, in the head welding
process, the end of the charging pipe was welded shut to achieve a
The major steps of the fabrication process for the proposed UTVC stable environment inside the UTVC.
are depicted in Fig. 4(a)–(d). The fabrication steps are also briefly de-
scribed below.
3. Experiment

2.3.1. Wet etching process


As described in this section, two experiments were performed to
Wet etching, which is a technique for removing material by means
evaluate the performance of the UTVC. One investigated the maximum
of chemical reactions, is an economical method of producing micro-
heat transfer performance of the UTVC, and the other investigated the
structures on ultra-thin metal sheets. It includes the processes of
heat dissipation performance of a cooling module simulating the actual
cleaning, deposition, exposure, development, etching, demoulding, and
situation in a real electronic device.
cutting. Simply put, based on the designed structure, a thin-film pro-
tective layer was applied to the Cu plate to be etched, the regions to be
3.1. Heat transfer performance experiment of the ultra-thin vapour chamber
etched were exposed, the plate was placed into an etching solution, and
after a certain period of time, the plate was removed from the solution
Fig. 5 shows a diagram of the experimental setup for the heat
and then the top and bottom covers of the UTVC were cut. Notably,
transfer performance experiment. The experimental device comprised
since pure copper becomes very soft after the diffusion bonding process,
three parts: a heating module, a water cooling module and a data ac-
the finished product deforms very easily; therefore, phosphorous
quisition module. The heating module consisted of a copper block, a
bronze (C5210) was used here.
heating rod and a 150-W adjustable DC power supply (HSPY-30-05).
The heating rod was embedded in the copper block, which had a
2.3.2. Diffusion bonding process
heating area of 15 × 15 mm2 and was powered by the adjustable DC
Diffusion welding is a pressure welding method in which two pieces
power supply. The cooling module consisted of a water tank (SCIENTZ
to be welded are brought in close contact and held together at a certain
SC-30), a flow meter and a copper block. The accuracy of the water
temperature and pressure for a sufficient period of time so that atoms
temperature output from the water tank was ± 0.1 °C, and the accuracy
will mutually diffuse between the contact faces to complete the welding
of the flow rate controlled by the flow meter was 2 L/h. The cooled
process. A diffusion bonding process was used to weld the top plate, the
copper block had a heat dissipation area of 30 × 15 mm2. The data
copper mesh and the bottom plate together. The bottom plate, the No.
acquisition module included a computer, a temperature acquisition
300 copper mesh and the top plate were placed in a static mould and
module (NI 9213 + NI cDAQ-9171), and eight T-type thermocouples
were then covered with a dynamic mould. The entire mould assembly
mounted at eight temperature collection points. The thermocouples
was then placed in a hot press furnace; a pressure of 5 MPa was applied
were closely attached to the surface of the UTVC.
to the dynamic mould by a hydraulic cylinder, and the furnace was
One end of the UTVC was placed on the heated copper block, and
heated to 850 °C for 15 min under a protective atmosphere. Finally, the
the other was placed on the cooled copper block. To reduce the thermal
mould was removed from the furnace after cooling.
resistance between the UTVC, the heated copper block and the cooled
copper block, thermal grease (Shin-Etsu G-750) with a thermal con-
2.3.3. Charging pipe assembly process
ductivity of 3.5 W/(m·K) was applied between the contact faces.
The charging pipe is the passage through which the UTVC is filled
Considering the small amount of the input heating power, the whole
with the working fluid and evacuated to the desired level of vacuum. A
test device was wrapped with insulation cotton. The heat loss during
copper pipe with a diameter of 2 mm was used as the charging pipe. The
UTVC operation was estimated using numerical simulation, and it was
charging pipe and the UTVC were welded together via a high-frequency
found that the heat loss rate could be controlled below 10% by using
welding process. High-frequency welding is a technique for welding
insulation cotton. The temperature and flow rate of the cooling water
metal materials using a high-frequency current. The charging tube was
were 50 °C and 20 L/h, respectively. The UTVC was tested in five dif-
coated with solder at one end and inserted into the filling port on the
ferent states. S1 denotes the horizontal state in which the end of the
UTVC substrate, which was prepared during the etching process. Then,
the section to be welded was placed on the coil section of the high-
Table 2
frequency welding machine, and after the solder had melted, the piece Physical parameters of water at 55 °C.
was cooled and removed.
Parameter (N/m) 3
v (kg/m ) µ v (Pa s) µl (Pa s) 3
l (kg/ m ) H (J/kg)

2.3.4. Injection, evacuation, and sealing process


Value 0.0670 0.11 1.03 × 5.06 × 986 2.37 × 106
This part of the manufacturing process is essentially identical to the 10−5 10−4
manufacturing process for a UTFHP. It includes the liquid injection,

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Fig. 4. Main manufacturing process and equipment for the proposed UTVC.

UTVC patterned with the coarse micropillar array was used as the located above the condensation section. S5 denotes the horizontal state
evaporation section. S2 denotes the state in which the UTVC was ro- in which the end of the UTVC patterned with the fine micropillar array
tated by 90° around the x-axis relative to S1. S3 denotes the state in was used as the condensation section.
which the UTVC was rotated by 90° around the y-axis relative to S1, The heating power was initially set to 2 W and increased in incre-
such that the evaporation section was located below the condensation ments of 0.25 W each time the temperature at the test points reached
section. S4 denotes the state in which the UTVC was rotated by −90° the steady state, defined as the state in which the temperature change at
around the y-axis relative to S1, such that the evaporation section was each test point was less than 0.1 °C over 30 s. The maximum heat

Fig. 5. Schematic of the heat transfer performance testing system (unit: mm).

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transfer power of the UTVC was measured as the maximum output thermal conductivity of 160 W/(m·K)) and a graphite sheet (thickness
power of the heating rod such that the steady-state temperature dif- of 0.07 mm and plane thermal conductivity of 1500 W/(m·K)). This
ference between the evaporation and condensation sections remained experiment tested the heat dissipation performance of cooling modules
below 6 °C. with and without a UTVC. The cooling module was placed on the
The average temperatures in the evaporation section (Te ), the heating block, the thermal uniformity of the surface of the cooling
adiabatic section (Ta ) and the condensation section (Tc ) are given as module was observed by the IR camera, and the temperature of the
follows: heating block, Tc , was measured. To reduce the contact thermal re-
1 sistance, thermal grease (Shin-Etsu G-750) with a thermal conductivity
Te = (T1 + T2)
(11) of 3.5 W/(m·K) was applied between the heating block and the alumi-
2
nium plate, between the heating block and the UTVC, and between the
Ta =
1
(T3 + T4 + T5) UTVC and the aluminium plate.
3 (12) The heating power was initially set to 2 W and was increased to
1 4.5 W when Tc reached equilibrium, meaning that the temperature
Tc = (T6 + T7 + T8) change was less than 0.5 °C for 60 s. After that, each time a new equi-
3 (13)
librium was reached, 0.5 W was added until the heating power reached
The thermal resistance and effective thermal conductivity of the 6 W. The ambient temperature in this test was 15 °C.
UTVC are defined as follows: In order to evaluate the temperature uniformity of the surface of the
Te Tc cooling module, the temperature uniformity index (TUI) is given as
RUTVC =
P (14) follow:

P Leff Leff Tmax Tmin


K eff = = TUI =
A (Te Tc ) A RUTVC (15) Tmax (16)

where P is the heating input power and A is the cross-sectional area of Where Tmax and Tmin are the maximum and minimum temperatures of
the UTVC. the cooling module surface respectively.

3.2. Heat dissipation performance experiment of the cooling module 3.3. Uncertainty analysis

The second experiment was conducted using an IR camera to in- The uncertainty in the tests mainly arose from the heating and
vestigate the heat dissipation performance of the cooling module. Fig. 6 temperature acquisition modules. The maximum measurement un-
shows a diagram of the experimental setup for the cooling module test, certainty of the heating module was related to the adjustable DC power
including the test bench and data acquisition device. The test bench supply, which had a current accuracy of 0.5% and a voltage accuracy of
consisted of a black box, a cantilever support that could move up and 0.1%. The measurement accuracy of the data acquisition module was
down, a heating block with a heating area of 15 × 15 mm2, and a 150- 0.02 °C, and the measurement accuracy of the T-type thermocouple was
W adjustable DC power supply (HSPY-30–05). The data acquisition 0.1 °C. Therefore, the relative measurement errors on the temperatures
device consisted of a computer, an IR camera (Fotric-220, with a of the evaporation and condensation sections, the temperature differ-
thermal sensitivity of 0.05 °C at 30 °C and a measurement accuracy ences, the thermal resistance, and the effective thermal conductivity
of ± 2% at the ambient temperature of 10–35 °C) and a temperature could be calculated according to the method described by Kline and
acquisition module (NI 9213 + NI cDAQ-9171). The heating block was McClintock [29]:
powered by the adjustable DC power supply, and a T-type thermo-
( )
n y 2
couple was embedded in the heating block to measure its temperature. E (y ) i=1 xi
E xi
The UTHP in a smartphone is often embedded in a metal frame, as =
y y (17)
shown in Fig. 1. Therefore, the cooling module in this experiment
consisted of a UTVC, a 110 × 65 × 1 mm3 aluminium sheet (Al6063, where y is a given function of the independent variable x i , E (y ) is the

Fig. 6. Heat dissipation performance testing system for cooling modules.

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measurement error, and E xi is the maximum measurement error on the the heating input power increased, the temperature at the same test
independent variable. Thus, the maximum relative measurement un- point continuously increased. For example, for a heating transfer power
certainties on the heating power, thermal resistance were calculated to of 4.50 W, the hottest point was T1, with a temperature of 55.72 °C, and
be 0.51% and 14.6%. The uncertainty of the effective thermal con- the coolest point was T8 , with a temperature of 49.64 °C. The maximum
ductivity is similar to the uncertainty of the thermal resistance. heat transfer powers in S1–S5 were 4.50, 4.50, 5.00, 4.00, and 4.50 W,
respectively. These test results are very close to the theoretically cal-
4. Results and discussion culated capillary limit. Relative to test state S1, the maximum heat
transfer powers of the UTVC in different test states did not change by
The experimental results regarding the heat transfer performance of more than 11%, indicating that the UTVC shows good adaptability and
the UTVC and the heat dissipation performance of the cooling module good heat transfer performance in both the normal and reverse gravity
are presented and discussed in this section. states. Fig. 7(f) shows the variations in evaporation temperature Te in
test states S1–S5 at different input powers. It can be seen that Te linearly
4.1. Temperature distribution of the ultra-thin vapour chamber and substantially increased before the maximum heat transfer power
was reached. After the maximum heat transfer power was exceeded, the
Fig. 7(a)–(e) illustrates the steady-state temperature distributions of temperature of the evaporation section increased sharply because this
the UTVC in test states S1–S5 at different heating input powers. As the section dried out and the wick structure did not provide sufficient
distance from the heat source increased, the temperature decreased. As working fluid to participate in the steam cycle, i.e., the UTVC reached

Fig. 7. (a)–(e) Temperature distributions of the UTVC in test states S1–S5; (f) evaporation temperatures Te in test states S1–S5 at different input powers.

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Fig. 8. (a) Thermal resistances of the UTVC in S1–S5; (b) effective thermal conductivity of various UTVCs reported in the literature [25,30].

Fig. 9. (a) Te values at different heating input powers; (b) Tmax values at different heating input powers; (c) amounts of time required for each cooling module to
reach equilibrium at different heating input powers.

the capillary limit. and it was highest at a heating input power of 4.75 W, with a value of
1.43 °C/W. The thermal resistance remained essentially constant at
4.2. Thermal resistance and effective thermal conductivity of the ultra-thin approximately 0.95 °C/W when the heating input power was between
vapour chamber 2.75 W and 4.00 W. The thermal resistances at the maximum heat
transfer power in test states S1–S5 were 1.06, 1.11, 1.13, 1.11 and
Fig. 8(a) shows the thermal resistance of the UTVC in test states 0.99 °C/W, respectively, showing good consistency, which is important
S1–S5 at different heating input powers. As the heating input power for ensuring the stable heat transfer performance of electronic products
increased, in test states S1–S4, the thermal resistance of the UTVC in- under different use conditions. A comparison of the results for test
itially increased and then remained unchanged until a certain power states S1 and S5 reveals that the thermal resistance of the UTVC was
threshold was reached, after which it increased again. By contrast, in lower in S5 than in S1 when the heating input power was between 0 W
the case of S5, the thermal resistance of the UTVC increased slowly at and 4.0 W. This result is because the vapour channel width at the end of
first and then increased more sharply after the maximum heat transfer the UTVC patterned with the fine micropillar array was larger than that
power was reached. In state S1, for example, the thermal resistance was at the other end, which was patterned with the coarse micropillar array;
the lowest at a heating input power of 2 W, with a value of 0.60 °C/W, consequently the UTVC suffered a smaller vapour pressure loss in S5

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Fig. 10. IR thermal images of the cooling modules at 2.0 W, 4.5 W, and 6.0 W.

than it did in S1 at the same heating input power, as shown by the heating power was high, the metal plate with both the graphite sheet
smaller temperature difference in the evaporation section. This phe- and the UTVC could better control the temperature of the heating block.
nomenon can be seen by comparing Fig. 7(a) and (e); when the heating For a given level of maximum surface temperature, the cooling module
input power was between 2.0 W and 4.0 W, the temperatures at T1 T2 with the UTVC could remove more heat than the cooling module
were higher in S1 than they were in S5. When the heating input power without the UTVC. Fig. 9(b) shows the maximum temperature differ-
exceeded 4.0 W, however, the thermal performance of the UTVC was ences on the surface of each cooling module when the temperature
limited by the capillary limit; thus, the thermal resistances of the UTVC reached equilibrium. These values were obtained by identifying the
were essentially identical in S1 and S5. highest and lowest temperatures in the IR thermal images. The cooling
Fig. 8(b) shows the effective thermal conductivity of the UTVCs module with the UTVC exhibited smaller differences in surface tem-
investigated in this paper and in other literatures. For comparison, the perature than the cooling module without the UTVC. When the heating
thermal conductivity of copper (C1020) is also listed. input power was 4.5–6 W, the surface temperature difference on the
cooling module without the UTVC exceeded 14 °C, whereas the surface
4.3. Heat dissipation performance of the cooling module temperature difference on the cooling module with the UTVC could be
maintained at approximately 8 °C, demonstrating that this cooling
Fig. 9(a) shows the temperatures of the heating block (Tc) when module could effectively prevent the formation of hot spots on the
equilibrium was reached at different heating input powers. When the surface. In addition, Fig. 9(c) shows the times required for each cooling
heating input power was 2 W, the cooling module with the UTVC had a module to reach equilibrium after each increase in heating input power.
higher Tc than the cooling module without the UTVC, indicating that The data indicate that the cooling module with the UTVC had a faster
when the power was low, the metal plate with the graphite sheet alone response speed, reaching equilibrium in only 60–80% of the time re-
was sufficient for controlling the heating block temperature. By con- quired by the cooling module without the UTVC. In summary, the
trast, when the heating input power was greater than 4.5 W, the cooling cooling module with the UTVC showed better heat dissipation perfor-
module with the UTVC had a lower Tc than the cooling module without mance, better thermal uniformity and a faster thermal response speed
the UTVC, and the greater the power was, the larger the temperature than the cooling module without the UTVC.
difference. When the heating input power reached 6 W, the cooling Fig. 10 shows the IR thermal images of two cooling modules. At
module with the UTVC could keep Tc as low as 57.4 °C, while the lower heating power, it is effective to use graphite sheets for heat dis-
cooling module without the UTVC allowed the temperature to reach sipation. As shown in Fig. 9(a)–(b), when the heating input power was
62.47 °C. When the heating power is 6.5 W, the cooling module with 2 W, the surface temperature of the cooling module without UTVC and
UTVC can still keep Tc at 60.2 °C. These findings indicate that when the the cooling module with UTVC are similar. However, under high

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Z. Chen, et al. Energy Conversion and Management 187 (2019) 221–231

heating power, the temperature of one end will be too high if using only Science and Technology Plan (Grant No. 201705YX263) and the
a graphite sheet for heat dissipation. As shown in Fig. 10(c)–(f), at a Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities, also EU
power of 4.5 W, the cooling module without UTVC has a significantly H2020-MSCA-RISE-2017-778104 – ThermaSMART.
higher temperature on the side close to the heat source, and the surface
temperature uniformity is worse than that of the cooling module with References
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