Gas assisted thin-film evaporation from confined spaces
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A novel cooling mechanism based on evaporation of thin liquid films is presented for thermal management of confined heat sources, such as microprocessor hotspots. The underlying idea involves utilization of thin nanoporous membranes for maintaining microscopically thin liquid films by capillary action, while providing a pathway for the vapor generated due to evaporation at the liquid-vapor interface. The vapor generated by evaporation is continuously removed by using a dry sweeping gas keeping the membrane outlet dry. This thesis presents a detailed theoretical, computational and experimental investigation of the heat and mass transfer mechanisms that result in dissipating heat. Performance analysis of this cooling mechanism demonstrates heat fluxes over 600W/cm2 for sufficiently thin membrane and film thicknesses (~1-5µm) and by using air jet impingement for advection of vapor from the membrane surface. Based on the results from this performance analysis, a monolithic micro-fluidic device is designed and fabricated incorporating micro and nanoscale features. This MEMS/NEMS device serves multiple functionalities of hotspot simulation, temperature sensing, and evaporative cooling. Subsequent experimental investigations using this microfluidic device demonstrate heat fluxes in excess of 600W/cm2 at 90 C using water as the evaporating coolant. In order to further enhance the device performance, a comprehensive theoretical and computational analysis of heat and mass transfer at micro and nanoscales is carried out. Since the coolant is confined using a nanoporous membrane, a detailed study of evaporation inside a nanoscale cylindrical pore is performed. The continuum analysis of water confined within a cylindrical nanopore determines the effect of electrostatic interaction and Van der Waals forces in addition to capillarity on the interfacial transport characteristics during evaporation. The detailed analysis demonstrates that the effective thermal resistance offered by the interface is negligible in comparison to the thermal resistance due to the thin film and vapor advection. In order to determine the factors limiting the performance of the MEMS device on a micro-scale, a device-level detailed computational analysis of heat and mass transfer is carried out, which is supported by experimental investigation. Identifying the contribution of various simultaneously occurring cooling mechanisms at different operating conditions, this analysis proposes utilization of hydrophilic membranes for maintaining very thin liquid films and further enhancement in vapor advection at the membrane outlet to achieve higher heat fluxes.