Liquid metal has been used as a coolant for system-level thermal management for decades in nuclear reactors. The reason is its efficiency — liquid metal can have an effective thermal conductivity 10 to 100 times the thermal conductivity of copper. However, cost and long-term reliability of liquid metal cooling approaches have previously precluded its widespread use for cooling of high-thermal-density electronics. Rockwell Collins has developed a liquid metal cooling technology that solves these issues.
It uses liquid metal in a substrate for locally cooling electronics components and carrying waste heat away to heat sinks. The liquid metal coolant (a compound of gallium, indium, and tin eutectic) is circulated using a solid-state pump. Because the substrates are simple and the cooling channels are very thin, this new approach requires very little liquid metal. This technology is more comparable to heat pipes and vapor chambers, but with gravity independence, mechanical flexibility, and tailorable thermal resistance.
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