Sintered porous structures are ubiquitous as heat transport media for thermal management and other applications. In particular, low-porosity sintered packed beds are used as capillary-wicking and evaporation-enhancement structures in heat pipes. Accurate prediction and analysis of their transport characteristics for different microstructure geometries is important for improved design. Owing to the random nature and geometric complexity of these materials, development of predictive methods has been the subject of extensive prior research. The present work summarizes and builds upon past studies and recent advances in pore-scale modeling of fluid and thermal transport within such heterogeneous media. A brief review of various analytical and numerical models for simplified prediction of transport characteristics such as effective thermal conductivity, permeability, and interfacial heat transfer is presented. More recently, there has been a growing interest in direct numerical simulation of transport in realistic representations of the porous medium geometry; for example, by employing nondestructive 3D imaging techniques such as X-ray microtomography. Future research directions are identified, looking beyond techniques intended for material characterization alone, and focusing on those targeting the reverse engineering of wick structures via modeling of the physical sintering fabrication processes. This approach may eventually be employed to design intricate sintered porous structures with desired properties tailored to specific applications.


porous media, sintered materials, direct simulation, microtomography, reverse engineering, electronics cooling, thermal and fluid transport

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K. K. Bodla, J. A. Weibel and S. V. Garimella, “Advances in Fluid and Thermal Transport Property Analysis and Design of Sintered Porous Wick Microstructures,” ASME Journal of Heat Transfer, Vol. 135, 061202, June 2013.