What are Thermal Pads?

Thermal Pads

What is a Thermal Pad?

Thermal pads are a type of thermal interface material (TIM) that are used to improve the heat transfer between a heat source and a heat sink. They are typically made of a flexible material such as silicone, which can be easily cut or trimmed to fit a wide range of applications. The thermal conductivity of the matrix material is enhanced by the addition of thermally conductive ceramic filler particles, typically aluminium or zinc oxide, or boron nitride.

Due to the uneven surface finishes of the heat source and heat sink components, air gaps with poor thermal conductivity are present which reduce the heat transfer in the system. The role of the pad is to remove these air gaps and replace them with a thermally conductive material. They are engineered to be soft in most cases which enhances the pad’s ability to conform to the surface and fill the microscopic air voids present on the surfaces, further increasing the effectiveness of heat transfer and lowering the thermal resistance. To conform to the surface readily and fill air gaps effectively, thermal pads require some pressure to achieve optimal performance.

One of the main advantages of pads is their ease of use. They are easy to install and can be cut or trimmed to fit the specific size and shape of the heat sink or heat source. They also come in a range of thicknesses and hardnesses to suit the application. Typical cutting methods for producing thermal pads are die-cutting, dicing or digital flat bed cutters.

Thermal pads are available with a range of thermal conductivities from 1 to 20W/m-K. They also have good resistance to thermal cycling, maintaining good thermal conductivity after repeated heating and cooling cycles. In addition, thermal pads are usually electrically isolating, which makes them suitable for use with electronic devices where a voltage is present across the thermal interface.

They can be used to dissipate heat from electronic devices such as CPUs, GPUs, and other components. They are also widely used in automotive, industrial, power electronics and telecommunication applications.

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