IIT Madras & UAE Researchers Develop Innovative Cooling Solution for Electronics Applications

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Scientists at Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT Madras) and Khalifa University, U.A.E., have made significant strides in advancing heat management for miniature electronic devices, particularly for space applications. 

The researchers latest breakthrough in mini-channel heat exchangers has been published in the reputed peer-reviewed journal Applied Thermal Engineering (https://doi.org/10.1016/j.applthermaleng.2023.121064). The research paper was co-authored by Prof. S. Vengadesan, Department of Applied Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering, IIT Madras and his Research student, Mr. R. Vishnu, along with Dr. Ahmed Alkaabi and Dr. Deepak Selvakumar from Khalifa University.

India's second Space Age has been driven by impressive technological innovations and the miniaturization of electronic components, enabling advanced functionalities, exemplified by the ongoing Chandrayaan-3 mission. However, the extensive use of miniaturized electronic components, both in space missions and consumer electronics, leads to significant heat generation. 

High-performance computing processors can generate up to 200-250 W or more of power, resulting in heat loads of up to 1 kW, necessitating efficient heat management. Liquid-cooling systems, especially micro/mini-channel heat sinks, are considered best suited for dissipating heat in such systems.

The research conducted by the IIT Madras team aims to disrupt the smooth flow inside the mini-channels through the use of plate electrodes. 

Elaborating about the significance of this research, Prof. S. Vengadesan, Department of Applied Mechanics and Biomedical Engineering, IIT Madras, said, “The new design developed by this research team uses thin plate electrodes that introduce swirling flows inside mini-channel fluids, which result in the formation of vortices at the boundaries, which in turn facilitates better heat transfer."

To validate the design, the researchers employed computational methods that simulate fluid flows in three dimensions. Through these simulations, they observed how the chaotic swirling flows effectively disrupted the smooth flow at the walls of the channels, and thereby enhanced heat transfer. The electrodes induce vortices at the boundary layer due to the Onsager-Wien effect, and disrupts the smooth flow. 

The use of a weak electric field to induce swirling flow in minichannels renders the application operationally safe and low power-consuming. The study's applications in electronic thermal management, particularly in space technology, are vast. Additionally, the electrically driven flow vortices generated by this design eliminate the need for additional geometrical modifications. With no moving parts, this design operates without vibration and requires no maintenance. Furthermore, its electrically operated nature ensures intelligent control and quick response.

The team plans to optimize the design by considering different electrode positions and orientations. Additionally, the mechanism identified in this study holds great promise for enhancing thin-film boiling and the team proposes to extend the application of the design to two-phase heat transfer systems. 


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