Plate fin heat sinks (PFHS) are widely used to remove heat from the microelectronic devices. In the present study, a new type of compound heat sink, named as plate-pin fin heat sink (PPFHS), is employed to improve the air cooling performance. With CFD numerical method, PPFHSs with five forms of pin cross-section profiles (square, circular, elliptic, NACA 0050, and dropform) and PFHS were simulated. Two different length scales were adopted to evaluate the performance of six types of heat sinks, including PFHS. One of the length scales is commonly used by many investigators, which is two times of the channel spacing. The other length scale is suggested by volume averaging theory (VAT), which is four times of average porosity divided by specific interface. The influence of pin fin cross-section profile on the flow and heat transfer characteristics was presented by means of Nusselt number, pressure drop and overall efficiency. It is found that the Nu number of a PPFHS is at least 35% higher than that of a PFHS used to construct the PPFHS at the same Reynolds number no matter which length scale was used. It is also revealed that the heat transfer enhancement of square PPFHS is offset by its excessively high pressure drop, which makes it not as efficient as the other types of PPFHS. Circular PPFHS performs similar to the streamline shaped PPFHS when the Reynolds number is not too high. However, with the increase in Re the advantage of the circular cross-section diminishes. Using the streamline shaped pins, not only the pressure drop of the compound heat sinks could be decreased considerably, the heat transfer enhancement also makes a step forward. However, evaluating the performance of heat sinks by using the commonly used length scale, the benefit of streamline shaped types of PPFHSs is a little bit overstated. The VAT suggested length scale is more reasonable to do the performance comparison of different heat sinks, especially when it is difficult to provide a fair and physically meaningful basis for the comparison. In short, the present numerical simulation provides original information of the influence of different pin-fin cross-section profiles on the thermal and hydraulic performance of the new type compound heat sink and emphasizes the importance of choosing a proper length scale when evaluating heat transfer enhancement, which is helpful in the design of heat sinks.

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