Weighing Up the Benefits of Passive vs Active Cooling

Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, Michigan, USA

May 1: Exhibitor and VIP Networking Reception | May 2-3: Exhibits and Conference

Suburban Collection Showplace, Novi, Michigan, USA

May 1: Exhibitor and VIP Networking Reception | May 2-3: Exhibits and Conference



In the advent of advancing technologies through miniaturization and electrification, thermal management serves as the core for effective system performance in a number of energy generating applications; automotive, electronics, aerospace, energy storage and more.

Requirements for these technologies are increasing, with customers seeking for lighter, cost-effective, tailored systems for their application.

Thermal management can be split in to two types: active and passive. With a number of thermal management solutions available on the market, weighing the benefits of the two for each unique application is crucial to ensuring optimal system performance. 

What’s the difference?

Active cooling

Active cooling refers to a thermal management system in which there is a separate device used to transfer heat from a component. This active removal of heat includes systems such as liquid cooling, heat sinks, or a fan.

Active thermal management solutions are excellent for cooling a component, and can be tailored to the users requirement. However, the drawbacks associated with this technology include weight and power requirements. These generally involve a cost due to the impacts on the overall operating system, which isn’t always optimal for manufacturers.

Passive cooling

Passive cooling is the use of materials or other resources to dissipate heat from a component. This includes thermal interface materials, heat spreaders, and aerogels (to name a few).

The benefits of using passive cooling is that generally it is more energy efficient and cost-effective. However, passive cooling is not always as efficient for bulk applications as active cooling.

So, what’s the best choice for my application?

There are certainly pros and cons to both cooling types. The application is very much dependent on the requirements of the heat generating component, but also must take into consideration the resources of the manufacturer.

Whilst in some cases the operating benefits might outweigh the cost-benefits, for other applications it can be the reverse. However, there doesn’t always have to be a trade-off, with many systems use a combination of the two, and as such gain the best of both.  

When selecting a thermal management system, it is key to make these considerations in the early stages of product development. Software such as thermal simulation and modelling can be utilized to ensure that the best system is selected.

Whichever type of technology you choose, there is no doubt that the value added by selecting the correct technology will improve the performance of the application.

At the Conference at Thermal Management Expo 2022, experts from system and material suppliers as well as end-users will be discussing the latest trends and innovations in thermal management across a range of industries. To register for the free-to-attend the event, taking place in Cleveland OH from august 30-31, please click here.