The current study investigates capillary-fed boiling of water from porous sintered powder wicks used in emerging high-effective-conductivity vapor chamber heat spreaders intended for management of hot spots with heat fluxes exceeding 500Wcm-2. Characterization of 1 mm thick wicks composed of 100 lm sintered copper particles is performed in a test facility which replicates the capillary feeding conditions that occur in such devices. Boiling curves are obtained for a 5 mm x 5 mm heated input area, along with high-speed in-situ visualization of the evaporation/boiling processes. Understanding the vapor formation regimes is essential to predictive modeling of the observed characteristics. Schematic representations of such regimes along the boiling curves are presented for homogeneous and modified wick structures. In general, incipience of boiling in sintered-powder wicks reduces the effective thermal resistance and, for small heat input areas, does not cause liquid starvation due to a capillary limitation. The thermal performance enhancement provided by two different augmentation methods is quantified and explained in terms of the observed vapor formation characteristics. Patterns fabricated within the sintered powder create multi-scale wicks with regions of different pore size. These patterns reduce thermal resistance throughout the boiling regime by increasing the permeability to vapor exiting the wick, as confirmed by visualization of the preferential vapor venting from the surface. At the highest heat fluxes investigated prior to dryout, a thin liquid film is observed to form in the recessed patterned areas at the base of the wick. Integration of copper-coated carbon nanotubes on to the sintered powder reduces the required superheat for boiling incipience, thus reducing the overall thermal resistance at low heat fluxes. Evaporation and boiling regime heat transfer predictions from several available correlations are compared to the current results, and are shown to corroborate the conclusions regarding vapor permeability.


Capillary, Thin-film evaporation, Boiling, Visualization, Heat pipe, Sintered powder wick

Date of this Version




Published in:

J. A. Weibel and S. V. Garimella, “Visualization of Vapor Formation Regimes during Capillary-Fed Boiling,” International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 55, pp. 3498-3510, 2012.