In general, there are many factors that can affect the thermal performance of a device. For simplicity, we will segment thermal management into four major product categories: hardware, software, thermal interface, and substrates.
Hardware is sometimes referred to as active cooling systems, including several product sub-segments like fans and blowers used in conjunction with heat sinks, fan sinks, heat pipes, cold plates, liquid cooling systems and thermoelectric coolers. These solutions mainly utilize metal or specialty materials with high thermal conductivity as heat transfer media. Aluminum is the most common metal used for heat sinks, as illustrated in Table 1. Copper is used only in high performance heat sink applications due to high cost. Gold is only used in extreme applications where the anodic index creates an issue.
Interface: Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) are products that stand between a heat sink and the device to be cooled. Their function is to improve the thermal transfer in the joint between the heat sink and the device to be cooled by wetting or connecting to both surfaces and eliminating air gaps, which cause thermal insulation. In some cases, the interface actually performs the job of the heat sink. This role has become increasingly common in applications in which, due to the height or weight constraints of a system, conventional hardware like a heat sink is not feasible. This segment includes several product sub-segments including thermal grease, thermal compounds, thermal pads, thermal tapes, epoxy, phase change materials, etc.