The increasing complexity of modern integrated circuits and need for high-heat flux removal with low junction temperatures motivates research in a wide variety of cooling and refrigeration technologies. Two-phase liquid cooling is especially attractive due to high efficiency and low thermal resistances. While two-phase microfluidic cooling offers important benefits in required flow rate and pump size, there are substantial challenges related to flow stability and effective superheating. This work investigates the use of hydrophobic membrane to locally vent the vapor phase in microfluidic heat exchangers. Previous work has demonstrated selective venting of gas in microstructures and we extend this concept to two-phase heat exchangers. This paper details the design, fabrication and preliminary testing of the novel heat exchanger. Proof-of-concept of the device, carried out using an isothermal air-water mixture, found the air-mass venting efficiency exceeding 95%. Two-phase, thermal operation of the heat exchanger found the pressure-drop to be smaller compared to a two-phase, non-venting model. The paper also includes a discussion of design challenges such as membrane leakage and optical inaccessibility. The favorable results demonstrated in this first-generation, vapor-venting, micromachined, heat exchanger motivates further study of this and other novel microstructures aimed at mitigating the negative effects of phase-change. With continued research and optimization, we believe two-phase cooling is a viable solution for high heat flux generating electronics.

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