Reliable and efficient cooling solutions for portable electronic devices are now at the forefront of research due to consumer demand for manufacturers to downscale their existing technologies. The power required for these technologies now has to be dissipated over smaller areas resulting in elevated heat fluxes. The most popular choice among engineers in terms of cooling solutions is to integrate a fan with a heat sink and for portable electronic devices this involves the use of a low profile solution. In this paper an experimental investigation on the thermal performance of a finned and finless heat sink integrated with an axial fan, for the purpose of cooling a microchip, is presented. The objective is to characterise the performance of each heat sink in terms of thermal resistance and to develop an understanding of the flow structures in such systems. One of the smallest commercially available fans is used in conjunction with each heat sink giving a total footprint area of 465m2 and profile height of 5mm. Thermal resistances are measured over a range of fan speeds and detailed velocity measurements were taken of the flow within the heat sinks using Particle Image Velocimetry (PIV). The thermal analysis results indicate that the thermal resistance of the system is of order 30 deg C/W for both heat sinks. However, the finless heat sink resulted in slightly lower values over a range of intermediate fan speeds. Hence, indicating that the maximum heat transfer density, for a range of fan speeds, can be achieved with a finless heat sink. The results also define the limiting heat fluxes that can be dissipated in low profile miniature applications.

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