Data centers housing high performance computing equipment have large and growing rack densities, which pushes the limits of traditional air cooling technologies because of limited heat transfer coefficients. Therefore, on-chip cooling using so-called cold plates is emerging as a necessary cooling option for high-density electronics. The use of mini-channels or pins fins to enhance internal heat transfer area inside cold plates requires extensive micro-machining that is relatively time consuming and expensive for mass production. As an alternative approach, inserting and bonding pre-manufactured metal foams into hollow bodies are explored as a potentially inexpensive means to enhance the interior heat transfer area of cold plates. One key aspect of the performance of metal foams in cold plates is the thermal contact resistance in the bonding between the foam and the substrate. This project predicts the contact resistance using measurements of different foam types (pure Cu and Cu with oxide), porosities (63%, 80%, 93%, and 95%) and thicknesses (4 mm, 8 mm, and 10 mm). These measurements are carried out with and without the use of thermal interface material (TIM) pads. A theory is proposed and implemented to estimate the contact and foam thermal resistances, but further work is needed to gain confidence in the results. Observations suggest that different thermal behavior is seen for the Cu foams compared to the Cu with oxide foams, and that the use of TIM pads can achieve 10x to 40x reduction in overall thermal resistance for highly porous foams bonded on Cu substrates.

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