Active Cooling of Electronics with Microchannels

Achievement date: 

Researchers affiliated with the NSF-funded Engineering Research Center (ERC) for Power Optimization for Electro-Thermal Systems (POETS), headquartered at the University of Illinois, have made significant progress on accomplishing active cooling of electronics by using very small channels, known as microchannels, which are etched into various materials that require cooling. 


This kind of active cooling holds promise for improving the optimization of power used by electronic components, such as in small mobile electronics. Professors Ken Goodson and Debbie Senesky at Stanford, a POETS partner institution, are working together to improve on the typical cold-plate design by using microchannels for embedded cooling. 


The embedded cooling uses micro-fabrication techniques to etch very small channels. The figure illustrates a typical cold plate that would interface with a hot spot, such as a chip. The figure provides a close up of some of the microchannels that have already been fabricated to be tested in cooling applications—for example, High Power Density Inverter designs.

To minimize pumping losses, two-phase flow is utilized in the microchannels. This approach also has the benefit of an isothermal cooling surface being mated to the heat source.