This paper provides a roadmap of development in the thermal and fabrication aspects of microchannels as applied in the microelectronics and other high heat-flux cooling applications. Microchannels are defined as flow passages that have hydraulic diameters in the range of 10 to 200 micrometers. The impetus for microchannel research was provided by the pioneering work of Tuckerman and Pease [1] at Stanford University in the early eighties. Since that time, this technology has received considerable attention in microelectronics and other major application areas, such as fuel cell systems and advanced heat sink designs. After reviewing the advancement in heat transfer technology from a historical perspective, advantages of using microchannels in high heat flux cooling applications is discussed, and research done on various aspects of microchannel heat exchanger performance is reviewed. Single-phase performance for liquids is expected to be still describable by the conventional equations; however the gas flow may be influenced by the rarefaction effects. Two-phase flow is another topic that is still under active research. The evolution of research into microchannel heat sinks has paralleled the advancements made in microfabrication technology. The earliest microchannels were built using anisotropic wet chemical etching techniques based on alkali solutions. While this method has been exploited successfully, it does impose certain restrictions on silicon wafer type and geometry. Recently, anisotropic dry etching processes have been developed that circumvent these restrictions. In addition, dry etching methods can be significantly faster and, from a manufacturing standpoint, create fewer contamination and waste treatment problems. Advances in fabrication technology will continue to fuel improvements in microchannel heat sink performance and cost for the foreseeable future. Some fabrication areas that may spur advances include new materials, high aspect ratio patterning techniques other than dry etching, active fluid flow elements, and micromolding.

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