Two-phase, capillary-fed cooling devices are appealing thermal management technologies due to their potential for high heat transfer performance and ease of system-level integration. While existing evaporative wicking structures such as copper inverse opals (CIOs) and copper wire meshes (CWMs) have shown promise for achieving target heat dissipation rates of 100 Wcm−2 or greater, the reliability of these structures for long-term device operation and optimal capillary-driven boiling performance has not received much attention. To ensure proper functionality of the evaporator wick, the microporous copper structures must retain a hydrophilic contact angle during device operation. Surface oxidation of the copper is a critical degradation mechanism that must be addressed to preserve the integrity of the wick. In this study, we systematically investigate the contact angle change of untreated copper and various copper oxides under different conditions. To avoid the formation of hydrophobic Cu2O, we pre-oxidize the copper micro porous wick to form hydrophilic cupric oxide CuO and study the effect of various thermal and chemical oxidation recipes on the hydrophilicity and morphology of the resulting structures. A chemical oxidation formula is implemented for the creation of a stable superhydrophilic surface at a low temperature (70°C) for copper inverse opals (CIOs) (5 μm pore size) and copper wire meshes (CWMs) (76 μm pore opening). The recipe has been optimized to create nano CuO needles with a length of < 100 nm and keep the necks (∼1 μm diameter) open for better capillary wicking of the working fluid. The findings of this study potentially benefit the development of copper-based capillary-fed cooling devices.

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