Capillary transfer: Numerical study of how topology affects the fluid flow rate into a planar microstructure with pseudopotential multiphase Lattice-Boltzmann method

Robin Pham, Sheng Wang, Heng Chieh Chien, Chung Lung Chen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

We investigate how topology impacts capillary action with the hope of aiding future thermal engineering decisions. Heat pipes and their two-dimensional variant, vapor chambers are essential components in electronics cooling. With thin-film evaporation as the driving force for such high-heat-flux movers, studies have been done to optimize the thermal performance of different designs. However, the fundamental problem of liquid transportation needs to be addressed exclusively: evaporation can only work as long as the new liquid is continuously being replaced. The device achieves this by the capillary process (or wicking) through the thermal ground (or wicks): a configuration of microstructures attached to the device's walls. Some planar topologies of the structure allow for consistent but slower mass feeding; others offer higher bandwidth but with local flow hindrance, creating a pulsating tendency; certain conditions would even block the capillary flow. Surveying the capillary performance of different two-dimensional designs of the thermal ground, we encounter a topological factor that correlates with this mass transfer rate. We incorporate in the factor the wick's width, its height, and the gap between one microstructure to another. An energy model is studied to explain the underlying influence of the structure topology, while Lattice-Boltzmann method is used to evaluate the capillary dynamics inside the thermal ground. With ultra-thin applications in mind, the paper looks at the length scales of micrometers with a wick height of μm. Overall, we find that tightly packed structures pull the most liquid in the same amount of time; however, we find that two core constraints need to be met: sufficient clearance between structures and freedom of mobility.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102102
JournalPhysics of Fluids
Volume33
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Oct 2021

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