Air vs Liquid Cooling: Advancements in Thermal Management for Power Electronics

Over the past few decades, Power & Energy have emerged as two of the fastest growing industries in electronics. Power conversion, inversion, and rectification as well as battery and fuel cell technologies have become integral to technological growth across all industries.

As power electronic systems become more complex and perform at higher power ranges, the form factors are getting smaller, making heat one of the greatest limiting factors to what can be accomplished. To handle the amount of power being dissipated, air cooling solutions must be optimized and enlarged to adequately remove the excess heat. In some cases, size becomes a limiting factor for forced convection solutions. In these cases where the size or weight of an air cooled system makes it impractical, liquid cooling is fast becoming the most popular alternative method.

Switching from an air-cooled system to liquid is not a decision to be made quickly or lightly; there are many factors and possibilities to consider when improving your thermal management to handle higher heat loads. Although market trends indicate that full liquid cooling systems will eventually be the industry standard for cooling power electronics, there are many options and hybrid solutions that can apply the benefits of both as your system evolves or upgrades. If budget or timeline constrictions are such that a direct switch to liquid is unrealistic, optimizing your forced convection solution either through design improvements or by introducing two-phase cooling or liquid components are viable interim solutions.

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