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Microfabrication and Analysis of Manifold Microchannel Coolers for Power Electronics (Mechanical Project)

This research presents the analysis and realization of a single phase high performance manifold microchannel cooler for improving the thermal and hydrodynamic performance of multi-chip power electronic modules. This heat exchanger, microfabricated directly into the substrate, enables higher power density electronic products by more efficiently removing the high levels of heat generated.

The improved thermal performance and efficiency of the heat exchanger is demonstrated using both numerical and experimental techniques. The improved heat removal is due to the reduction in the number of packaging layers between the device and the heat exchanger and by improvement in convective heat transfer. In addition, the efficiency of the device is enhanced by minimizing fluid pressure drop through the use of large manifold channels to transport fluid to the cooling area and smaller crossover microchannels in the active cooling area. This combination of channels also improves the uniformity of the temperature distribution across the device.

The manifold microchannel coolers were fabricated and tested both with and without electrical isolation between the chip and the coolant. Experimentally, the coolers without electrical isolation demonstrated thermal resistivity values as low as 0.06 K/(W/cm2), which is up to a 50X improvement over a standard power package with significant size and weight reduction. The coolers with an incorporated aluminum nitride electrical isolation layer experimentally demonstrated up to a 15X improvement.

In addition to experimental results, the interaction between the manifold channels and multiple microchannels was numerically modeled and compared to simpler, one-dimensional approximations based on the Hagen-Poiseuille equation. The comparison shows that the one-dimensional model, while under-predicting total pressure drops, can provide insight into the effect of varying dimensions on system performance. The numerical models were used to identify the impact of varying dimensions across the entire length of the cooler, and a sensitivity analysis was performed with respect to system pressure drop, thermal resistance and uniformity. Additionally, large microchannel velocity gradients, some larger than 10X, were observed along the length of the device which impacts the chip non-uniformity. The simulations showed that when comparing the manifolded design to a comparable straight microchannel cooler, there is a 38X reduction in system pressure drop for similar thermal performance.
Source: University of Maryland
Author: Lauren Marie Boteler

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