Thermal interface materials (TIMs) serve a critical role in thermal management by enhancing heat transfer across contact interfaces. Specifically, they are most commonly used in electronics to enhance the flow of heat from source to sink by decreasing the overall thermal resistance of the system. In space, these materials are exposed to high doses of Gamma radiation due to the lack of an atmosphere to serve as an absorbing medium. With typical design lifetimes of 5 to 10 years, total radiation exposure can be significant and can adversely affect the thermal contact resistance (TCR) of the TIM. In this manuscript, we report the effect of radiation-aging on the TCC of several commercially available electrically insulating, thermally conductive interface materials that are commonly used in satellite systems. Although radiation dose levels can vary significantly during the course of a space mission, a dosing of 10 Mrad per year for TIMs is a reasonable estimate. The TIMs were aged in a Gamma cell at a rate of 250 rad/s to total doses of 50 and 100 Mrad to simulate mission lengths of 5 and 10 years, respectively. The TCR of each radiation-aged sample, as well as un-aged samples, were measured under vacuum (less than 3 × 10−4 Pa). Radiation-aging of the TIMs led to a significant increase in the TCR of the tested samples. For example, the pressure-dependent TCR was shown to increase 20–150% for Cho-Therm 1671 and 50–250% for ThermaCool R10404 samples subjected to 50 Mrad of gamma-ray irradiation. These results show that radiation-aging of TIMs cannot be ignored in the design and simulation of space systems.

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