Porous structures formed by sintering of powders, which involves material-bonding under the application of heat, are commonly employed as capillary wicks in two-phase heat transport devices such as heat pipes. These sintered wicks are often fabricated in an ad hoc manner, and their microstructure is not optimized for fluid and thermal performance. Understanding the role of sintering kinetics—and the resulting microstructural evolution—on wick transport properties is important for fabrication of structures with optimal performance. A cellular automaton model is developed in this work for predicting microstructural evolution during sintering. The model, which determines mass transport during sintering based on curvature gradients in digital images, is first verified against benchmark cases, such as the evolution of a square shape into an areapreserving circle. The model is then employed to predict the sintering dynamics of a sideby- side, two-particle configuration conventionally used for the study of sintering. Results from previously published studies on sintering of cylindrical wires are used for validation. Randomly packed multiparticle configurations are then considered in two and three dimensions. Sintering kinetics are described by the relative change in overall surface area of the compact compared to the initial random packing. The effect of sintering parameters, particle size, and porosity on fundamental transport properties, viz., effective thermal conductivity and permeability, is analyzed. The effective thermal conductivity increases monotonically as either the sintering time or temperature is increased. Permeability is observed to increase with particle size and porosity. As sintering progresses, the slight increase observed in the permeability of the microstructure is attributed to a reduction in the surface area.


sintering model, effective thermal conductivity, permeability, wicks, heat pipes, random packed beds, cellular automaton

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K. K. Bodla and S. V. Garimella, “Simulated Microstructural Evolution and Design of Porous Sintered Wicks,” Journal of Heat Transfer, Vol. 135, 072601, 2014