A simple and easy to implement 1-D heat transfer modeling approach is presented in order to investigate the performance of various phase change materials (PCMs) under fast transient thermal loads. Three metallic (gallium, indium, and Bi/Pb/Sn/In alloy) and two organic (erythritol and n-octadecane) PCMs were used for comparison.

A finite-difference method was used to model the transient heat transfer through the system while a heat integration or post-iterative method was used to model the phase change. To improve accuracy, the material properties were adjusted at each iteration depending on the state of matter of the PCM. The model assumed that the PCM was in direct contact with the heat source, located on the top of the chip, without the presence of a thermal conductivity enhancement.

Results show that the three metallic PCMs outperform organic PCMs during fast transient pulses in spite of the fact that two of the metallic PCMs (i.e. indium and Bi/Pb/Sn/In) have considerably lower volumetric heats of fusion than erythritol. This is due to the significantly higher thermal conductivity values of metals which allow faster absorption of the heat energy by the PCM, a critical need in high-energy short pulses. The most outstanding case studied in this paper, Bi/Pb/Sn/In having only 52% of erythritol’s heat of fusion, showed a maximum temperature 20°C lower than erythritol during a 32 J and 0.02 second pulse. This study has shown thermal buffering benefits by using a metallic PCM directly in contact with the heat source during short transient heat loads.

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