Highly Efficient Thermal Transport: The Application of Carbon Nanotube Array Interfaces

By Baratunde A. Cola

Purdue University

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Carbon nanotubes (CNTs) have received much attention in recent years for their extraordinary properties that through careful engineering may be leverage for the development of numerous advantageous applications. However, to date, only few CNT based applications exist in the market place. So when and where will the commercially viable CNT revolutions occur? It has been over 15 years since CNTs were revealed and elevated to their celebrity status. Today, advancing technological infrastructure (i.e., the supporting cast) brings hope that we will see a growing number of CNT based applications in the near future. A potentially marketable application on the immediate horizon is the use of CNT arrays to aid a person's laptop from overheating by reducing the interfacial thermal resistance between power dense, microelectronic components and their associated heat sinks. In addition, improved thermal interface conductance by use of CNT arrays can be beneficial to many other heat transfer applications. Carbon nanotubes are attractive because they can be made to form a dry, removable interface with good thermal conductance. In certain configurations, CNT array interfaces may achieve thermal resistances that are comparable to or less than a soldered joint.

My group (T.S. Fisher, Inc., a.k.a. ‘The Fish Bowl’) has done extensive and pioneering work on the development and understanding of CNT array interfaces. In this presentation, I will discuss some of the fundamentals of thermal interfaces and CNT enhanced thermal interfaces. I will present an outline of the work we have done on CNT interfaces and discuss its evolution. I will illustrate the key issues associated with designing a CNT interface that will perform well in a given configuration, and discuss our synthesis system (plasma-enhanced CVD) and its capabilities. Finally, I will present some of the key challenges associated with developing marketable CNT array interface applications and present some possible solutions to these challenges.


Baratunde A. Cola is a mechanical engineering Ph.D student at Purdue University under the direct advice of Dr. Timothy S. Fisher and Dr. Xianfan Xu. He received his B.E and M.S. in mechanical engineering at Vanderbilt University in 2002 and 2004 respectively. Currently, Baratunde is an Intel Fellow and Purdue Doctoral Fellow. He resides in the Birck Nanotechnology Center were his research interests include carbon nanotube and nanomaterial synthesis and applications and thermal characterization.

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  • Baratunde A. Cola (2007), "Highly Efficient Thermal Transport: The Application of Carbon Nanotube Array Interfaces," https://nanohub.org/resources/2317.

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