This paper shows the performance enhancement of heat pipes by tailoring the density distribution of micropillar wicks to minimize viscous pressure loss while maintaining sufficient capillary pumping. In a heat pipe, capillarity and permeability are linked, since small pores create higher capillary pumping while unfortunately inducing more pressure drop along the heat pipe. This pressure loss accumulates along the heat pipe, leading to a non-uniform pressure difference between the liquid and vapor. Therefore, we do not need a uniform capillary pressure to withstand this difference. This provides the opportunity to spatially tailor the wick structure, aiming for a high capillarity to pump the liquid, but a low permeability to induce less pressure loss. Our study offers a compromise between capillarity and permeability by designing the density distribution of the pillar wick structure. This density distribution, which was not studied before, will be shown to enhance the heat pipe performance.

The theoretical models show that a tailored density distribution can enhance the heat pipe performance by a factor of 1.5. To support this result, ‘rate of rise’ measurements along a pillar array demonstrate that the liquid pressure loss in a tailored density array are less compared to a constant pillar density.

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