Phase change cooling schemes involving passive heat spreading devices, such as heat pipes and vapor chambers, are widely adopted for thermal management of high heat-flux technologies. In this study, carbon nanotubes (CNTs) are fabricated on a 200 micrometer thick sintered copper powder wick layer using microwave plasma enhanced chemical vapor deposition technique. A physical vapor deposition process is used to coat the CNTs with a varying thickness of copper to promote surface wetting with the working fluid, water. Thermal performance of the bare sintered copper powder sample (without CNTs) and the copperfunctionalized CNT-coated sintered copper powder wick samples is compared using an experimental facility that simulates the capillary fluid feeding conditions of a vapor chamber. A notable reduction in the boiling incipience superheat is observed for the nanostructured samples. Additionally, nanostructured samples having a thicker copper coating provided a considerable increase in dryout heat flux, supporting heat fluxes up to 457 W/cm^2 from a 5 mm x 5 mm heat input area, while maintaining lower surface superheat temperatures compared to a bare sintered powder sample; this enhancement is attributed primarily to the improved surface wettability. Dynamic contact angle measurements are conducted to quantitatively compare the surface wetting trends for varying copper coating thicknesses and confirm the increase in hydrophilicity with increasing coating thickness.


vapor chamber; heat pipe; carbon nanotube (CNT); dryout heat flux; boiling; surface functionalization

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A. S. Kousalya, J. A. Weibel, S. V. Garimella and T. S. Fisher, “Metal Functionalization of Carbon Nanotubes for Enhanced Sintered Powder Wicks,” International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer, Vol. 59, pp. 372-383, 2013.