Yuling Wang, Technology Analyst, IDTechEx
Yuling Wang will be joining us as a panel speaker for our conference session focussed on Current Market Landscape for Thermal Management on Tuesday May 2.
Could you tell us how you have seen the industry shift, develop and/or grow over the last few years?
Over the last several years, the general trend is that more efficient thermal management strategies are needed, especially for the high-performance computing industry, such as data centers. The traditional thermal management solution relied on air, which has the benefits of ease of use and low costs. However, due to the inherent low thermal conductivity of air, air cooling alone is unable to fulfil the requirements of the quickly increasing power of data center components. Therefore, more effective cooling methods such as liquid cooling and immersion are being increasingly adopted.
Which thermal management materials or applications are you most excited about and why?
I am personally most excited about graphene-based materials, graphite in specific. Graphite has been widely applied in consumer electronics as heat spreaders, and they present both high thermal conductivity and electromagnetic interference. This multifunctionality is likely one of the trends for the future. In the meanwhile, graphite presents high thermal conductivities, and it might be able to replace fans for some low-power electronic devices Graphite TIMs are also used in EV batteries. As a result, given the increasing EV volume, the demand graphite TIMs is likely soar.
What are the key challenges and/or opportunities facing the thermal management industry?
There are several challenges facing the thermal management industry. These include 1. Cost pressure: The thermal management industry is under constant pressure to reduce costs while maintaining performance, making it a challenge to develop and manufacture effective and affordable thermal management solutions. Due to the large volume of TIMs needed for growing markets, a small change of thermal material unit cost can lead to a significant difference for the company overall; 2. Complexity of thermal management solutions: Thermal management solutions are becoming increasingly complex, with multiple heat sources and varying temperature requirements, making it challenging to design and manufacture solutions that can meet the diverse needs of different applications; 3. Environmental concerns: There is growing concern over the environmental impact of traditional thermal management solutions, such as air conditioning and refrigeration systems, which consume significant amounts of energy and contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. 4. Trade-offs between costs, performance/thermal conductivity, and physical properties (e.g., stiffness, conformability, etc.) of TIMs. While many TIMs such as graphite, carbon-based TIMs or metal-based TIMs have demonstrated superior in-plane (x-y) and through-plane (z) thermal conductivities, they have limited thermal performance because of the poor contact. The filler materials typically have high thermal conductivities with high Young’s modulus (limited conformability) and costs. On the contrary, the matrix materials have great flexibility and costs but limited conductivities. Therefore, choosing the right TIM would be a trade-off between thermal conductivities, conformability and costs.
However, with the increasing demand for high-power devices, there are also a number of opportunities for thermal management including 1. Growth of electric vehicles: The growth of the electric vehicle market is driving demand for effective thermal management solutions that can maintain the temperature of batteries, motors, and various other components. The shift of battery configuration from modular design to cell-to-pack design might lead to an increasing demand for high-performance and adhesive TIMs; 2. High-performance thermal dissipation: within the data center industry, the increasing power of data center components (e.g., server boards, switches, etc.) lead to greater thermal requirements. An increasing number of liquid-based cooling strategies have been adopted in recently built data centers.
What are you most looking forward to at Thermal Management Expo 2023?
I am looking forward to seeing the breadth of innovative thermal management strategies being presented by large material players and smaller start-ups alike. So many different industries require thermal management and associated materials with different properties for each application. The presentations, panel discussions, and exhibitors will give excellent insights into the evolving area of thermal management.
We can't wait to welcome Yuling this May. To find out more about the conference agenda, please click here.