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Thermal management of electronic components is the primary concern in developing faster, more

compact and reliable computer technology. In particular, the cooling of future electronic chips is

essential. Based on Moore’s prediction, the number of transistors on integrated circuits currently doubles

approximately every eighteen months. As the number of transistors in a single chip increases, the power

consumption and heat dissipation from the chip will become a critical issue in the design of high

performance semiconductor processors A conventional air cooling technology has been used for several

years by using a heat sink and fins to increase the surface area to dissipate the heat from the heat source

to the ambient air. This air cooling approach will no longer be sufficient as the power consumption of

the CPU increases and the size decreases. Therefore, thermal management engineers have searched for

alternative cooling approaches to maintain the chip temperature below the maximum

operating temperature. Alternative cooling methods are, for instance, heat pipe technology, jet

impingement cooling, thermoelectric cooling, liquid cooling, spray cooling, and refrigeration cooling. In

comparing the various methods based on design criteria and requirement such as heat capacity,

efficiency, reliability, size, price, and working temperature, it can be seen that the vapor compression

refrigeration system is a better cooling method than others. The miniature-scale vapor compression

refrigeration system is one of the most promising alternative cooling techniques for high heat dissipation

electronics cooling, because it maintains an operating chip temperature below the ambient air

temperature, increases reliability and life cycle time due to a lower and constant operating temperature,

and provides high system performance, It also keep the junction temperature below the maximum

operating temperature and handle high heat dissipation applications.


Refrigerated cooling of electronic equipment into four main types which include the following:

Refrigerated cooling of air or liquid (Refrigerant): In this system, the electronic equipment is

mounted to the cold surface, which is at a temperature below the temperature of the surroundings. Since

the cooling fluid is colder than the equipment, it picks up heat at the cold surface and transports it to the

evaporator, where it is picked up by the refrigeration cycle. In this system, the total heat reject to the

surroundings by the condenser is the sum of the heat absorbed from the cooling fluid in the evaporator

and the compressor input power.

Figure 1: Small-scale refrigeration cooling system Figure 2: computer with refrigeration cooling system

Refrigerated heat sinks: In this system a refrigerated heat sink has a lower temperature at the cold

surface of the electronic equipment than a refrigerated system that uses a cooling fluid. The evaporator

is mounted directly to the electronic equipment and thus, the electronic temperature is colder than the

surroundings temperature and the cooling system is more compact than the refrigerated cooling of air

system. A typical cryogenic heat sink system has a temperature significantly below 0 oC, normally at

–200o C or lower.

Liquid nitrogen baths: In this case, the cooled electronic components are immersed into the liquid

nitrogen bath that is insulated from the surroundings by using a Dewar flask. The Dewar flask is a

double wall container that is made of an insulated material such as glass. The space between the walls is

evacuated to minimize heat conduction and both surfaces are coated with a shiny metal film to minimize

the heat radiation from the hotter surroundings to the liquid nitrogen The electrical wiring must be

insulated to prevent heat transfer. Special care must be taken regarding the insulation technique since

generally the heat dissipation by the electronic component is small comparing to the heat dissipated by

the flask.

Thermoelectric coolers: Thermoelectric cooling system operates by using the Peltier effect. Therefore,

the refrigeration system is compact and requires no compressor, evaporator, condenser, and refrigerant.

The thermoelectric cooler consists of a type P and type N semiconductor of bismuth telluride. A junction

of these two different semiconductor materials is placed between the surface to be cooled (heat source),

and the hot surface (heat sink) A DC voltage is applied across the hot surface where heat is transferred

to the surroundings. The extra electrons in the N type semiconductor and the holes in the P type material

are carriers that move heat from the cold to the hot junction. The heat is pumped by virtue of the Peltier

effect. The rate of heat absorbed at the cold junction is pumped to the hot junction proportional to the

carrier current passing through the circuit. A good thermoelectric semiconductor material such as

bismuth telluride provides an easy flow of carrier to transfer heat from the cold to the hot junction and to

impede the heat transfer in the opposite direction. To obtain a higher temperature difference across the

cold and hot surface, the thermoelectric modules can be cascaded in series. Nevertheless, the capacity

and efficiencies of the cascaded thermoelectric cooler are small



The following are the design criteria and requirement to consider when designing a vapor compression

refrigeration system for electronics cooling:

1. The size and weight of the of the refrigerating system: there are various relevant aspects

regarding the application of electronic component cooling, although the challenge is even greater

when considering portable applications such as laptops. Normally, vapor compression systems

with a few hundred Watts cooling weigh dozens of kilograms, while big systems can weigh a

few tons, making it impossible to use conventional systems in this case. Thus, in small systems

where portability is important two characteristics become mandatory: weight and efficiency.

2. The Type of refrigerant to use: One of the first steps in developing a refrigeration system is the

selection of the most adequate refrigerant for a given operating condition, observing the

theoretical efficiency, necessary refrigerant flow and finally the volumetric displacement

required for the compressor.

For example according to (Possamai et al) choosing an ambient temperature of 250c, an

evaporating temperature of 100c and a vaporizing temperature of 450c. The cycle performance

was calculated for different refrigerants through the REFPROP (2002) software for a required

cooling capacity of 30W, with the results being shown in table 1 below.

Table 1 – Refrigerant properties and isentropic performance for several refrigerants at 10°C/45°C

Property Water Propane Isobutane R134a R152a R245fa

Pe (kPa) 1,2 636,8 220,3 414,6 372,8 82,9

Pc (MPa) 9,6 1534,4 604,2 1159,9 1036,8 295,8

Td (°C) 229,1 68,8 62,0 69,4 76,4 62,6

6,20 5,70 6,11 5,86 6,17 6,33

Pc-Pe (Mpa) 8,4 897,6 383,9 745,3 664,0 212,8

Pc/Pe 7,8 2,4 2,7 2,8 2,8 3,6


volumetric 1475,1 9,3 21,7 11,8 12,3 43,7

flow (cc/s)

From the table above the numbers show that the water needs a very large volumetric displacement and

operates at very low pressures. In addition to this, the discharge temperature is prohibitive. The other

refrigerants are suitable for this application, with small isentropic COP differences. In this case, the

isobutane was chosen as it presented relatively low operating pressures, without requiring high

volumetric displacement, when compared to R245fa, which presents the highest isentropic COP and

lowest operating pressures.

Compression Mechanism: Based on the refrigerant choice, the most adequate compression mechanism

must be defined for performing the job of compression. The reciprocating and the rotary mechanisms are

among those most widely used in small scale refrigeration. These two options should be taken into

account when making a qualitative analysis for making the final choice.

Table 1 – Refrigerant properties and isentropic performance for several refrigerants at 10°C/45°C

Requirement Reciprocating Rotary

Standard manufacturing tolerances Manufacturing tolerance become

Minimum external
are acceptable for piston-cylinder more important for small roller
clearance diameter

High volumetric
Able to reach 70% Able to reach 85%

Possibility of oiless
Possible for linear mechanisms Oil is mandatory to avoid leakages

Acoustics High vibration mechanism Low vibration mechanism

Can use linear motor or BLDC

Driving mechanism Only BLDC motor can be applied


The reduction in size has a strong correlation with compressor operating frequency for various aspects.

The first is fundamental, and refers to the volumetric displacement occurring over a period of time. In

the case of isobutane, displacement should ideally be around 22 cc/s in order to obtain the required mass

flow the greater the frequency the smaller the displaced volume The greater the frequency the smaller

the displaced volume in each compression cycle and, thus, the smaller the compression mechanism

dimensions can be. On the other hand, the space available for installing the valves becomes smaller.

Thus, the definition of compression pump becomes a simultaneous optimization of the mechanism

variables related to the displaced volume and valve system, as an operating frequency function.

5. Calculate the mass flow rate (kg/s) of refrigerant in the evaporator from an energy balance, fixing a

saturated liquid condition at the condenser exit and a superheat of about 10 °C at the evaporator exit.

6. Calculate the volumetric flow rate (m3/h) of refrigerant at compressor suction through the density of

the refrigerant. The volumetric flow rate is the swept volume of your compressor available on


7. Choose size of the plate evaporator by the DTml method. Dtml should be almost 18°C; using a first

value of U=600 W/m2K, the area of the evaporator can be easily calculated. Further adjustments

accounting for an accurate sizing depends on the geometry of the plate exchangers (pressure drops at

refrigerant side, effect of oil) are needed.

8. Choose the size of the condenser: it depends of the type you choose... Use catalogues for air-coolers

(LU-VE and Guntner are two important companies ... but a lot of companies are available in the world)