Can Graphite Cool Down Electronics? Simulation Software Can Tell Us
Joan Thompson posted on November 01, 2016 | 2661 views

Electronics are becoming smaller, more efficient and more powerful. To keep up with these demands, engineers face more complex challenges that can only be overcome through rigorous trial and testing. This is where GrafTech International (GrafTech) comes in.

An electronic device is equipped with a flexible graphite foil to dissipate the heat and prolong the device’s life span. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)
An electronic device is equipped with a flexible graphite foil to dissipate the heat and prolong the device’s life span. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)

The company’s work with graphite products was featured in the September issue of Multiphysics Simulation, a magazine dedicated to sharing stories about companies who use mathematical models and numerical simulations to optimize engineering processes. The magazine is sponsored by the Swedish software company, the COMSOL Group.

GrafTech provides carbon and graphite solutions for a variety of thermal management applications from large-scale furnaces to smartphones. Using simulation software, the company discovered just how much potential the carbon-based material has for these types of applications.


Graphite Is a Little Too Good for Modeling

Graphite is becoming the new “wonder material” in the world of electronics. Depending on how it is manufactured, it can have significant hardness and strength. Engineers are also able to create highly complex shapes from graphite.

A sample of the simulation software for thermal management applications. Capabilities include testing various materials as well as their shape. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)
A sample of the simulation software for thermal management applications. Capabilities include testing various materials as well as their shape. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)

Being able to morph your product into any shape may be good for engineering design, but difficult when you try to model its ability to transfer heat.

Using COMSOL Multiphysics software, engineers at GrafTech are designing graphite foil for electronic devices and testing them under dynamic thermal-mechanical-electrical loads. The company is also building on the mathematical models behind the software to better evaluate graphite’s anisotropic heat transfer behavior.


One Example of the Thermal Management Wonders of Graphite

In one example of a project under GrafTech, engineers created a product called GRAFSHIELD. The invention is a carbon-bonded graphite insulation layer that is applied to prevent temperatures from exceeding 100 °C (212 °F) with water-cooled induction coils.

On the left is a simulation of the induction coils wrapped around a furnace. On the right are results showing the optimal graphite insulation layer thickness. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)
On the left is a simulation of the induction coils wrapped around a furnace. On the right are results showing the optimal graphite insulation layer thickness. (Image courtesy of GrafTech International.)

The challenge: It had to be thick enough to insulate the coils adequately while also thin enough to prevent interference with the current running through the coils. This was a job that required careful simulation modeling.

Other stories featured in the September 2016 issue of Multiphysics Simulation include improving the safety of medical implant devices, optimizing laser welding for the automotive industry and advancing research in acoustics meta-materials.

To learn more about GrafTech International’s other projects, visit its website.

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