Thermal Ceramics and Heat Sinks

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Thermal Ceramics

A heat sink uses the principles of conductive, convective and radiative heat transfer to remove excess heat from a hotter source into a lower-temperature fluid. The larger the surface area of the base material in contact with the heat exchange fluid, the more efficient the heat transfer process will be. Heat is transferred to the fluid mainly through convection, but it can also be transferred by radiation and conduction. Heat sinks can be made from a variety of materials. Alumina is the most common choice, but it has relatively low thermal conductivity. Increasing the thermal conductivity of the base material by adding fins can significantly increase the rate at which heat is transferred to the cooling fluid.

Aluminum Nitride (AlN) and Beryllium Oxide (BeO) are two members of the family of advanced ceramics that have high thermal conductivity. These materials are dense technical ceramics that can be produced with a carbothermic reduction process and sintered under normal pressure. They have good mechanical properties, high flexural strength, and are corrosion-resistant in harsh environments. They are ideal materials for use in power semiconductor devices.

Many Intersil packages have built-in bottom metal or heat sinks that improve thermal performance. The locations and dimensions of these features are noted on the package datasheet Package Outline Drawings. Taking advantage of these thermal enhancements requires careful consideration when designing the circuit board and choosing the right solder paste. Stencil type and thickness are important, as well as the reflow profile. A laser-cut, stainless steel stencil with electro-polished trapezoidal walls is recommended to promote paste release and minimize voids.