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Enhanced thermal transport in soft composites through magnetic alignment and contact engineering

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Soft polymer composites with improved thermal conductivity are needed for the thermal management of electronics. Interfacial thermal boundary resistance, however, prevents the efficient use of many high thermal conductivity fill

Soft polymer composites with improved thermal conductivity are needed for the thermal management of electronics. Interfacial thermal boundary resistance, however, prevents the efficient use of many high thermal conductivity fill materials. Magnetic alignment of ferrous fill material enforces percolation of the high thermal conductivity fill, thereby shifting the governing boundary resistance to the particle- particle interfaces and increasing the directional thermal conductivity of the polymer composite. Magnetic alignment maximizes the thermal conductivity while minimizing composite stiffening at a fill fraction of half the maximum packing factor. The directional thermal conductivity of the composite is improved by more than 2-fold. Particle-particle contact engineering is then introduced to decrease the particle- particle boundary resistance and further improve the thermal conductivity of the composite.

The interface between rigid fill particles is a point contact with very little interfacial area connecting them. Silver and gallium-based liquid metal (LM) coatings provide soft interfaces that, under pressure, increase the interfacial area between particles and decrease the particle-particle boundary resistance. These engineered contacts are investigated both in and out of the polymer matrix and with and without magnetic alignment of the fill. Magnetically aligned in the polymer matrix, 350nm- thick silver coatings on nickel particles produce a 1.8-fold increase in composite thermal conductivity over the aligned bare-nickel composites. The LM coatings provide similar enhancements, but require higher volumes of LM to do so. This is due to the rapid formation of gallium oxide, which introduces additional thermal boundaries and decreases the benefit of the LM coatings.

The oxide shell of LM droplets (LMDs) can be ruptured using pressure. The pressure needed to rupture LMDs matches closely to thin-walled pressure vessel theory. Furthermore, the addition of tungsten particles stabilizes the mixture for use at higher pressures. Finally, thiols and hydrochloric acid weaken the oxide shell and boost the thermal performance of the beds of LMDs by 50% at pressures much lower than 1 megapascal (MPa) to make them more suitable for use in TIMs.

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Date Created
  • 2019

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Multiphase Liquid Metal Composites for Soft Thermal Applications

Description

Soft thermal interface materials (TIMs) are critical for improving the thermal management of advanced microelectronic devices. Despite containing high thermal conductivity filler materials, TIM performance is limited by thermal resistances

Soft thermal interface materials (TIMs) are critical for improving the thermal management of advanced microelectronic devices. Despite containing high thermal conductivity filler materials, TIM performance is limited by thermal resistances between fillers, filler-matrix, and external contact resistance. Recently, room-temperature liquid metals (LMs) started to be adapted as an alternative TIM for their low thermal resistance and fluidic nature. However, LM-based TIMs face challenges due to their low viscosity, non-wetting qualities, chemical reactivity, and corrosiveness towards aluminum.To address these concerns, this dissertation research investigates fundamental LM properties and assesses their utility for developing multiphase LM composites with strong thermal properties. Augmentation of LM with gallium oxide and air capsules lead to LM-base foams with improved spreading and patterning. Gallium oxides are responsible for stabilizing LM foam structures which is observed through electron microscopy, revealing a temporal evolution of air voids after shear mixing in air. The presence of air bubbles and oxide fragments in LM decreases thermal conductivity while increasing its viscosity as the shear mixing time is prolonged. An overall mechanism for foam generation in LM is presented in two stages: 1) oxide fragment accumulation and 2) air bubble entrapment and propagation. To avoid the low thermal conductivity air content, mixing of non-reactive particles of tungsten or silicon carbide (SiC) into LM forms paste-like LM-based mixtures that exhibit tunable high thermal conductivity 2-3 times beyond the matrix material. These filler materials remain chemically stable and do not react with LM over time while suspended. Gallium oxide-mediated wetting mechanisms for these non-wetting fillers are elucidated in oxygen rich and deficient environments.
Three-phase composites consisting of LM and Ag-coated SiC fillers dispersed in a noncuring silicone oil matrix address LM-corrosion related issues. Ag-coated SiC particles enable improved wetting of the LM, and the results show that applied pressure is necessary for bridging of these LM-coated particles to improve filler thermal resistance. Compositional tuning between the fillers leads to thermal improvements in this multiphase composite. The results of this dissertation work aim to advance our current understanding of LMs and how to design LM-based composite materials for improved TIMs and other soft thermal applications.

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  • 2021