How Heat Sinks Cool Down Electronics


Heat sinks are components found in electronic devices such as cell phones, computers, and DVD players. They are designed to disperse or transfer heat away from a hot appliance. The components feature a solid material and a non-conductive fluid that amplifies the surface area of the hot device, thus resulting in a cooling effect. Ideally, heat sinks come in different designs and aesthetics apart from incorporating varied capabilities.

Different heat sink suppliers will have different segns. In the same way, they are named differently according to the unique features they utilize in cooling hot devices. Computers, for instance, have different chips, with some of them fitted with heat sinks to enable the cooling process. A good example of heat sinks is the straight fin heat sink and the flared fin heat sink.

Heat sinks are engineered to work similarly to a car radiator. Like the radiator would take heat away from a car engine, it is the same way a heat sink draws heat from the central processing unit of an electronic device. Technically, heat sinks are fitted with a thermal conductor, which is responsible for heightening the surface area of the heat. The resultant heat is then dissipated throughout the computer. Other than the thermal conductor, heat sinks also have in-built fans. The integrated fans improve airflow.

Working mechanism

Heat sinks have a similar working mechanism and their cooldown electronic devices through the following ways four fundamental steps:

The heat from the source

Before the heat sinks can swing into action, heat has to be emitted from the central processing unit within the electronic device. Heat is produced as the device processes information. If the CPU overheats continuously, it could lead to severe system failure.

Heat dispersion from the source

Once the CPU is hot enough, heat is conducted into the heat sink. Remember, the heat sink is made up of a solid material. Therefore, heat is dispersed from the source to the heat sink through natural conduction. The heat sink must include aluminum and copper with high thermal conductivity for the conduction process to happen fast.

Heat distribution within the heat sink

After the heat sink gains heat from the source, the subsequent heat is further distributed from the high-temperature zones to low-temperature environments within the device through natural conduction. In other words, the heat sink will not remain to be hot after conducting heat from the source.

Heat transfer from the heat sink

The heat sink’s working fluid and temperature gradient work efficiently to disperse away from the heat to ambient environments. Non-conductive fluid within the heat sink uses convention and thermal diffusion to transfer heat from warm areas of the sink to an ambient region. Once again, the temperature gradient comes into play here. However, if the cooler part is not cooler than the region around the heat sink, heat removal will fail to take place. On the bright side, there is an edge in the design of the heat sink. The component features a large surface area that can still enable heat dispersion by convection and diffusion.

The most effective heat sinks feature either aluminum or copper. These are two materials that boast unbeatable thermal conductivity. Copper has a thermal conductivity of 400 W/mK, while aluminum has a thermal conductivity of 235 W/mK. Copper is ideal for heat dissipation in devices with extensive overheating, while aluminum is ideal for moderately overheating devices.


Knowing how the heat sink works will go a long way when you pick out the system for your electronics. Take your time and learn through everything before you make a purchase.


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