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Thermal Transport and Mechanical Properties of Carbon Nanotube Arrays


Electronic Chip cooling has become an important issue with the ever increasing transistor densities and computing power demands. One of the crucial components of the thermal management system is high-performance thermal interface materials (TIMs), the materials connecting various solid-solid interfaces in packaged electronic devices. Ideal TIMs have the characteristics of high mechanical compliance and high intrinsic thermal conductivity. Vertically Aligned Carbon Nanotube (CNT) arrays are promising for advanced TIMs since they possesses both characters yet poor contact to the target surface can limit the overall performance. Recently, indium-assisted bonding has been found to enhance the contact conductance by a factor of 10, which inspires a comprehensive study of the CNT-array thermal transport properties. This thesis presents a systematic study on the thermal transport and mechanical properties of CNT arrays. The CNT array density and length are controlled via the thermal annealing duration and ethylene exposure duration in water-assisted chemical vapor deposition synthesis. The thermal transport properties are measured accurately by phase-sensitive photo thermal reflectance thermometry. The thermal contact conductance between CNT array and Glass increased close to linearly by increasing the volume fraction of the CNT array. The increase of volume fraction can potentially increase the number of contacting tubes which further enhance the contact area. In addition, the effective thermal conductivity increases monotonically with the increase of volume fraction of the CNT array. Quantitatively, it has been found that the increasing trend of thermal conductivity is larger than the increasing trend of volume fraction. The strain and buckling behavior of CNT arrays under compressive stress were systematically studied. It has been verified both experimentally and analytically that buckling in lower density CNT array results in a further decrease of thermal conductivity. The thermal conductivity of CNT array decreases as the structure changes from vertically aligned to buckled, while the thermal conductivity rises back as the buckling structure becomes more compact. The rise of thermal conductivity with the buckling structure is attributed to the rise of the thermal contact conductance between tubes. The thermal contact conductance between CNT array and glass increases as the compressive stress increases to certain degree, while further increase of stress causes fatigue at the contacts, which decreases the contact conductance. These results demonstrate how thermal transport properties vary as a function of CNT array density and as a function of the strain of CNT array. With such trends, the thermal properties can be further increased by understanding the underlying mechanisms for such trends.

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