How Heat Sink Compound Keeps Electronics Cool

What is heat sink compound?

Heat sink compound (also called thermal grease, thermal compound, CPU grease, heat paste, heat sink paste, and thermal interface material) is a sticky paste that's used as an interface between CPU heat sinks and heat sources.

What is the purpose of heat sink compound?

Heat sink compound is used to fill the gap between the CPU (central processing unit) or other heat generating components and the mechanical heat sink. The mechanical heat sink, a passive component made of a conductive metal, is placed over the CPU. Heat is drawn through the mechanical heat sink to its fins, where a fan blows air through to dissipate the excess heat. 


Inefficiencies in the thermal transfer occur because two flat surfaces, e.g. CPU and mechanical heat sink, never join together perfectly. Inevitably there is an air gap because of imperfect surfaces. Because air is a relatively bad thermal conductor, this can lead to a reduction in heat dissipation, and as a result, an overheating and failing device. Heat sink compound is used to fill that gap and is designed to efficiently transfer the heat from the heat generating component to the heat dissipating device. Although the heat sink compound does not have the thermal conductivity of metals like copper and silver, the improvement over the air will increase thermal responsiveness.





Heat Sink Compound  










NOTE: Conductivity may vary depending on material type

Source: List of thermal conductivities, Wikipedia

Heat sink compound does not mechanically connect devices like thermal adhesive. The mechanical heat sink must be firmly attached using screws or other means to minimize the space.

Techspray Heat Sink Compound

Techspray offers two formulas of heat sink compound, silicone (part #1977-DP) and silicone-free (part #1978-DP and 1978-1). Silicone heat sink compound is an older formula more appropriate for electrical applications. Silicone is used in combination with zinc oxide to create a paste that applies easily but does not flow into unintended areas. Silicone can migrate and cause solderability issues and conformal coating dewetting. Techspray Silicone-Free Heat Sink Compound avoids silicone migration, yet has similar application characteristics and thermal conductivity. Both products will effectively increase the efficiency of thermal transfer and help avoid overheating.

For more information on heat sink compounds contact us.


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