This study compares two common numerical strategies for modeling flow and heat transfer through mini- and micro-channel heat sinks: the unit cell approach and a complete three dimensional unified approach. Conjugate heat transfer and laminar flow through a copper-water heat sink over a 2×2 cm2 heat source have been modelled using the finite element method within COMSOL Multiphysics 5.0; with the primary objective being to identify the channel width at which the two models yield similar temperature and pressure predictions. Parametric studies that varied channel widths showed that as these widths were reduced, and the total number of channels increased, temperature and pressure predictions from both models converged to similar values. Relative differences as low as 5.4 and 1.6 % were attained at a channel width of 0.25 mm for maximum wall temperatures and channel pressure drops, respectively. Based upon its computational efficiency and conservative over prediction of wall temperatures, the unit cell approach is recommended as a superior design tool for parametric design studies at channel widths of less than 0.5 mm.

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