Aviation Thermal Management - When to Use Heat Pipes, HiK Plates, Vapor Chambers, and Conduction Cooling


Flight-critical avionics for Manned and Unmanned Aircraft Systems must be maintained below specific temperatures for mission success. Within the thermal design engineer’s toolbox are several technologies that are often considered for avionics thermal management. These technologies include: heat pipes, high conductivity (HiK) plates (heat pipes embedded into aluminum plate), vapor chambers and conduction cooling using materials such as aluminum or pyrolytic graphite.

One question that is often asked is “What are the design criteria used when conducting trade studies involving these technologies?”

  • Heat pipes that provide low thermal resistance paths between critical electronic components and heat sinks.
  • HiK or high conductivity plates with embedded heat pipes that provide highly effective heat spreading or transport at low mass and cost.
  • Vapor chamber heat pipes are sometimes referred to as thermal transformers, because they are often used to accept heat from small, high heat flux sources and transfer that heat to a much larger, low heat flux sink, where the heat can be efficiently dissipated.
  • Conduction-only materials. Aluminum plates for conduction cooling are the standard for low power applications, where heat pipes are not required. Thermal doublers are standard for spreading out the heat flux when a vapor chamber is not required. More expensive conduction solutions are used when extremely thin solutions are required, or when the system must be cooled at temperatures below 25ºC.

This Webcast will present the design trade space for each technology which will include: operating principal, thermal performance, thermal conductivity, size, weight, operational and storage temperature, mechanical strength, and cost. Attendees will gather insight as to when and how these thermal technologies can solve their thermal problems.


John Hartenstine, Manager, Aerospace Products, Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.

John Hartenstine, Manager of the Aerospace Products, has been with ACT since 2005. He has over 27 years-experience in research and product development engineering focusing on advanced thermal management, including heat pipes. He is a co-inventor on 3 U.S. patents and has co-authored over 30 papers. He holds a M.S. in Systems Engineering, Pennsylvania State University – Great Valley.

Dr. William Anderson, Chief Engineer, Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc.

Dr. William Anderson is the Chief Engineer at Advanced Cooling Technologies, Inc. He has B.S., M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in mechanical engineering from M.I.T., with over 30 years’ experience in two phase heat transfer. He has designed and developed a number of unique heat transfer devices, ranging in temperature from hydrogen LHPs at 20 K to lithium magnetoplasmadynamic devices operating at temperatures over 2000°C, and with heat fluxes up to 6400 W/cm2. For the last few years, Dr. Anderson has been developing high temperature heat pipes and radiators for nuclear fission and electric propulsion, and working on thermal management systems for Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) and other avionics boxes.

Click here to view the webinar.