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Thermal interface materials and methods for processing the same

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Thermal interface materials and methods for processing the same


A thermal interface material is provided for use to fill a gap between surfaces in a thermal transfer system to transfer heat between the surfaces. The thermal interface material includes a base material and thermally conductive particles dispersed within the base material. The thermal interface material is conditioned under reduced pressure (e.g., prior to being placed in the gap between the surfaces, while being placed in the gap, after being placed in the gap, etc.) and, within about forty-eight hours or less of conditioning, the conditioned thermal interface material is either positioned in a container that inhibits ambient gas from contacting it (either alone or applied to the surfaces), or used to transfer heat between the surfaces. As such, the thermal interface material is substantially free of cracks following exposure to thermal cycling comprising a temperature change of at least about 100 degrees Celsius for at least about 10 cycles.

Browse recent Laird Technologies, Inc. patents - Chesterfield, MO, US
Inventors: Karen Bruzda, Richard F. Hill, Brian Jones, Michael D. Craig
USPTO Applicaton #: #20120292005 - Class: 165185 (USPTO) - 11/22/12 - Class 165 
Heat Exchange > Heat Transmitter

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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20120292005, Thermal interface materials and methods for processing the same.

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FIELD

The present disclosure generally relates to thermal interface materials conditioned under reduced pressure, for example, reduced atmospheric pressure, etc., and methods for conditioning the thermal interface materials. Such conditioning of the thermal interface materials can be done prior to packaging the thermal interface materials; prior to, while, or after installing the thermal interface materials in thermal transfer systems; prior to or while using the thermal interface materials to transfer heat between thermal transfer surfaces in thermal transfer systems; etc.

BACKGROUND

This section provides background information related to the present disclosure which is not necessarily prior art.

Electrical components, such as semiconductors, integrated circuit packages, transistors, etc., typically have pre-designed temperatures at which the electrical components optimally operate. Ideally, the pre-designed temperatures approximate the temperature of the surrounding air. But the operation of electrical components generates heat. If the heat is not removed, the electrical components may then operate at temperatures significantly higher than their normal or desirable operating temperatures. Such excessive temperatures may adversely affect the operating characteristics of the electrical components and the operation of the associated devices.

To avoid or at least reduce the adverse operating characteristics from the heat generation, the heat should be removed, for example, by conducting the heat from the operating electrical components to heat sinks. The heat sinks may then be cooled by conventional convection and/or radiation techniques. During conduction, the heat may pass from the operating electrical components to the heat sinks either by direct surface contact between the electrical components and heat sinks and/or by contact of the electrical components and heat sink surfaces through intermediate mediums or thermal interface materials. The thermal interface materials may be used to fill gaps between thermal transfer surfaces, in order to increase thermal transfer efficiency, as compared to having the gaps filled with air, which is a relatively poor thermal conductor.

SUMMARY

This section provides a general summary of the disclosure, and is not a comprehensive disclosure of its full scope or all of its features.

Disclosed herein are example embodiments of systems and methods relating to processing thermal interface materials for improving reliability, operability, etc. of the thermal interface materials when used with thermal transfer systems (e.g., to transfer heat between thermal transfer surfaces of the systems, etc.) to thereby improve reliability, operability, etc. of the thermal transfer systems during such use, particularly when the thermal transfer systems undergo cyclic changes in temperature during such use. Also disclosed are example embodiments of thermal interface materials that have been processed in accord with the present disclosure, including thermal interface materials that have been conditioned under reduced pressure. In such embodiments, conditioning of the thermal interface materials can be done prior to, while, or after installing the thermal interface materials between thermal transfer surfaces in thermal transfer systems, or even prior to or while using the thermal interface materials to transfer heat between the thermal transfer surfaces in the thermal transfer systems. In some example embodiments, the conditioned thermal interface materials (e.g., separate from thermal transfer systems, installed in the thermal transfer systems, etc.) may be further packaged and/or stored (e.g., alone, in combination with the thermal transfer systems in which they are installed, etc.) under conditions so as to inhibit contact of the conditioned thermal interface materials with ambient gases.

Example embodiments of the present disclosure are generally directed toward thermal interface materials suitable for use to fill gaps between surfaces and/or transfer heat between the surfaces (e.g., in thermal transfer systems, etc.). In one example embodiment, a thermal interface material generally includes a base material and thermally conductive particles dispersed within the base material. At a first time period, the thermal interface material is substantially free of cracks following exposure of the thermal interface material to thermal cycling between a temperature of about −20 degrees Celsius and a temperature of about 160 degrees Celsius for at least about 10 cycles during use of the thermal interface material to fill a gap between at least two surfaces. At a second time period, after exposure of the thermal interface material to ambient air for at least about eight hours, the thermal interface material exhibits crack formation following exposure of the thermal interface material to thermal cycling between a temperature of about −20 degrees Celsius and a temperature of about 160 degrees Celsius for at least about 10 cycles during use of the thermal interface material to fill a gap between at least two surfaces.

In another example embodiment, a thermal interface material generally includes a base material and thermally conductive particles dispersed within the base material. Here, the thermal interface material is conditioned under reduced pressure and, within about forty-eight hours or less of conditioning the thermal interface material, the conditioned thermal interface material is either positioned in a container that inhibits ambient gas from contacting the conditioned thermal interface material, or the thermal interface material is used to transfer heat between thermal transfer surfaces of a thermal transfer system. In this example embodiment, the thermal interface material can be conditioned prior to, while, or after installing the thermal interface material in the thermal transfer system. Or, the thermal interface material could be conditioned at anytime prior to or while using the thermal interface material to transfer heat between the thermal transfer surfaces of the thermal transfer system.

Example embodiments of the present disclosure also generally relate to methods for processing thermal interface materials to improve operational reliability of the thermal interface materials when used to transfer heat between at least two thermal transfer surfaces. In one example embodiment, a method generally includes conditioning the thermal interface material under reduced pressure such that the thermal interface material is substantially free of cracks following exposure to thermal cycling comprising a temperature change of at least about 100 degrees Celsius for at least about 10 cycles.

Further areas of applicability will become apparent from the description provided herein. The description and specific examples in this summary are intended for purposes of illustration only and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure.

DRAWINGS

The drawings described herein are for illustrative purposes only of selected embodiments and not all possible implementations, and are not intended to limit the scope of the present disclosure.

FIG. 1 is a flowchart illustrating operations of an example method for processing a thermal interface material in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is a perspective view of an example system operable to help process a thermal interface material in accordance with the present disclosure;

FIG. 3 is a photograph of a sample of a thermally conductive putty initially exposed to ambient laboratory conditions for about 24 hours and then submerged in degassed liquid silicone under reduced pressure in a vacuum chamber, and shown in the vacuum chamber in the degassed liquid silicone at about a time a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inches of mercury absolute (inHg abs)) was achieved in the vacuum chamber;

FIG. 4 is a photograph of a sample of the same thermally conductive putty of FIG. 3 conditioned at a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) for about 15 minutes in accordance with the present disclosure and then submerged in degassed liquid silicone under reduced pressure in a vacuum chamber, and shown in the vacuum chamber in the degassed liquid silicone at about a time a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) was achieved in the vacuum chamber;

FIG. 5 is a photograph of a sample of the same thermally conductive putty of FIG. 3 conditioned at a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) for about 15 minutes in accordance with the present disclosure, then exposed to ambient laboratory conditions for about 12 hours, and then submerged in degassed liquid silicone under reduced pressure in a vacuum chamber, and shown in the vacuum chamber in the degassed liquid silicone at about a time a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) was achieved in the vacuum chamber;

FIG. 6 is a photograph of a sample of the same thermally conductive putty of FIG. 3 conditioned at a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) for about 15 minutes in accordance with the present disclosure, then stored in a sealed bag under vacuum for about 1 month, and then submerged in degassed liquid silicone under reduced pressure in a vacuum chamber, and shown in the vacuum chamber in the degassed liquid silicone at about a time a reduced pressure of about 127 Torr (about 5 inHg abs) was achieved in the vacuum chamber;

FIG. 7 is a photograph of a sample of a thermally conductive putty conditioned at a reduced pressure of about 381 Torr (about 15 inHg abs) for about 5 minutes in accordance with the present disclosure and then subjected to thermal cycling analysis;

FIG. 8 is a photograph of a sample of the same thermally conductive putty of FIG. 7 not conditioned at a reduced pressure and subjected to the same thermal cycling analysis as the sample shown in FIG. 7;

FIG. 9 is a photograph of a sample of a thermally conductive putty conditioned at a reduced pressure of about 381 Torr (about 15 inHg abs) for about 5 minutes in accordance with the present disclosure and then subjected to thermal cycling analysis;

FIG. 10 is a photograph of a sample of the same thermally conductive putty of FIG. 9 not conditioned at a reduced pressure and subjected to the same thermal cycling analysis as the sample shown in FIG. 9;



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20120292005 A1
Publish Date
11/22/2012
Document #
13111735
File Date
05/19/2011
USPTO Class
165185
Other USPTO Classes
International Class
28F7/00
Drawings
11



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