LONDON – U.K. startup Versarien will demonstrate porous metal technology and its applicability to thermal management products during the Electronica exhibition in Munich from Nov. 13-16.
Versarien Ltd. (Cinderford, England) was founded in 2010 by CEO Neil Ricketts. The startup arose after Ricketts began working with researchers at the University of Liverpool on the creation of porous metals. The original interest in porous metals related to strength-to-weight ratio optimization, but Ricketts said he saw the potential application for a sponge-like structure that could be used for thermal management in electronic components.
A patented method called lost carbonate sintering (LCS) provides better control over the pore size and porosity of finished metal. Versarien was launched to commercialize the technology for application in cooling systems in servers, processors and power conditioning equipment, Ricketts said.
Copper is frequently used for optimum heat transfer out of silicon die, but the LCS method is also applicable to alumimum, nickel, steel and titanium, Ricketts said. The best method to extract heat from the copper is to push water or another liquid through the porous metal. Even air-cooled approaches using LCS with increased surface area on copper have advantages over milled or micro-machined heat sinks.
Porous copper can provide up to 10 times more effective cooling than a micro-channel heat sink of a similar size, startup Versarien claims.
"The idea of metal foam has been around for some time but we have made it repeatable, scalable," explained Ricketts. "Pore size can be varied from 250-micron diameter up to 2 millimeters, and porosity from 50 percent up to 80 percent." For water cooling, a 500-micron diameter pore size and 65 percent porosity proved optimum.
Despite efforts to reduce IC power consumption, managing the heat generated by electronic components continues to be a major issue in servers and data centers as well as in high-performance computing. "Sandy Bridge Core i7 CPUs from Intel already come with water cooling systems," Ricketts noted.
Tests have shown that LCS-based thermal management can be nine times more effective at dissipating heat than traditional micro-channel heat sinking mechanisms, he claimed.
Versarien has received grant support from the U.K. government's Technical Strategy Board as well as venture capital investments totaling about $1.6 million. The startup has a manufacturing facility in Cinderford, where the company employs 10 people.
Ricketts said Versarien is aiming for a price of $10 for a basic porous copper slab measuring 35-mm by 35-mm by 3-mm. An additional water-tight sleeve and ingress and egress ports would add to the cost.
The company's first product, VersarienCu, will be launched at next week's Electronica
exhibition in Munich, Germany (Booth A2.535).Related links and articles:
Intel tests oil immersion to cool servers
Micropelt raises funds to expand energy harvest work
Nextreme claims breakthrough cooling performance