Demonstration of a High Thermal Conductivity Cold Plate Material Using Multi-Walled Carbon Nanotubes

Period of Performance: 09/09/2003 - 03/09/2004


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Mainstream Engineering Corporation
200 Yellow Place Array
Rockledge, FL 32955
Principal Investigator


This proposal will demonstrate the development of a composite material containing aligned carbon nanotubes with thermal conductivity far in excess of traditional copper or aluminum. A unique process for fabricating the aligned carbon nanotubes will be demonstrated in Phase I. Limited thermal conductivity experiments will be performed to demonstrate the conductivity improvement. The aligned Carbon Nanotube Composite (CNC) will also be fabricated into a cold plate in Phase I and demonstrated. In addition to the potential for a thermal conductivity that approaches graphite (6600 W/mK, compared to 390 W/mK for copper), the CNC heat pipe is ideal for direct chemical bonding to solid-state electronic devices, thereby eliminating interfacial thermal resistance. This extremely high thermal conductivity material is ideal as a heat-spreading device, which can ultimately be fabricated into heat sinks (including microchannel heat sinks or heat pipes). Phase I will demonstrate a high thermal conductivity composite composed of aligned carbon nanotubes with enhanced thermal conductivity. Phase I will include manufacturing techniques, design specifications, experimental data and cost analysis. This effort will experimentally demonstrate the performance of a thermally conductive material that can be fabricated into cold plates, heat pipes, and related thermal devices and provide a heat flux capability that far exceeds traditional copper or aluminum materials. The proposed material would be applicable to all types of cold plates and heat pipes. In addition to the MDA applications, other potential applications include satellite thermal control, hardened radiator systems, and commercial or military electronics cooling (high-power electronics, supercomputers, electronic switchgear, and avionics). Mainstream has performed a commercialization study and the commercial potential is tremendous. A commercialization partner has been secured as well as Phase II matching funds.