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Electrolube: Improving thermal management with next generation gap fillers

17 January 2022

Electrolube GF400 thermal gap filler
Electrolube GF400 thermal gap filler

MacDermid Alpha Electronics Solutions, a global supplier of integrated solutions from our Circuitry, Assembly & Semiconductor divisions that provides unmatched capabilities in electronics design & manufacturing, has brought a thermal gap filler to market that provides greater stability than traditional thermal interface materials.

Developed by electro-chemicals manufacturer, Electrolube, a recent acquisition of MacDermid Alpha Electronics Solutions, the GF400 thermal gap filler is one of the most versatile thermally conductive gap fillers on the market. Thermal management is a critical component of the design phase for any electronics device and implementing thermal management early in the design process will lead to a more reliable end product. It can also be far more cost effective, helping to veer away from excessive costs from trial and error through the design phase. Let’s look at some of the key areas of gap fillers in more detail.

What exactly is a gap filler?

A gap filler is a material that is designed to be used at higher thicknesses than a standard thermal interface material. It could be used on a gap of 300µm up to a few mm. A gap filler will provide a good thermal conductivity but also maintain its stability at these higher thicknesses, ensuring good heat transfer throughout the life of the product. Typically, thermal gap fillers have been widely used in touch screen and mobile applications, but the huge versatility of Electrolube’s GF400 makes it extremely adaptable for use in many more varied and diverse applications, such as EV batteries in automotive electronics, printed circuit board assembly, consumer electronics, housing electronic components discretely, telecoms applications such as data centre servers & fibre optic equipment, lighting & LED applications, and power electronics. The list of application variants is vast, which is why the GF400 has seen increasing demand across the board. The GF400 gap filler also offers high thermal conductivity and a low modulus elastomer, which prevents pump out.

How do I avoid pump out?

Most devices in general will go through some form of thermal cycle, even if it’s as simple as switching the device on and off. When changes in temperature occur, all materials in the unit will expand or contract to a certain degree, depending upon the temperature the device reaches in operation and, ultimately, the temperatures that the individual components reach. The coefficient of thermal expansion will vary from component to component and so contraction and expansion can happen at different rates, with adverse effects such as pump-out occurring as a result.

To overcome this issue, a product such as Electrolube’s GF400 thermal gap filler is required, providing excellent stability during the thermal shock cycle. Pump out can occur when a device such as an IGBT, for example, is subject to temperature changes resulting in relative motion between the conductor and its heatsink, between which a non-curing thermal paste has been applied. This motion can cause such pastes to be squeezed or pumped out from the interface gap, reducing the thermal transfer performance.

Electrolube GF400 thermal gap filler
Electrolube GF400 thermal gap filler

What are the key features of Electrolube’s GF400 Gap Filler?

GF400 is a new two-part, liquid silicone-based gap filler, which provides exceptional thermal performance and can be cured at room temperature or accelerated with heat. After curing, GF400 forms a low modulus elastomer, preventing pump-out and is soft and compliant for low stress applications. The low viscosity filler is easy to dispense and provides extremely high thermal conductivity of 4.0 W/m.K with a wide operating temperature range from -50 to 200°C. The GF400 gap filler is also flame retardant and flows into all the voids and small gaps that are present at an interface between two substrates, allowing for minimal bond line thickness and minimal thermal resistance at the interface.

GF400 also remains more stable over many thermal cycles. Thermal gap fillers have become fundamental in meeting the increasing demands for enhanced performance and miniaturised electronic assemblies, such as ECU’s (electronic control units) without compromising reliability. The characteristics of the GF400 thermal gap filler result in better thermal performance than conventional thermal interface materials, due to its capacity to conform extremely well to rough surfaces, which eliminates tiny air pockets and achieves an extremely thin bond line. GF400 can also be used continuously over extended periods of time and can endure very high temperature applications, withstanding temperatures from –50°C to 200°C, giving manufacturers a high performance thermal management solution that greatly improves reliability.

Increasing miniaturisation in electronics means that heat dissipation problems are becoming increasingly important. More effective thermal management will often lead to enhanced reliability and life expectancy of devices. Negligent thermal management will quite simply lead to overheating, which may be caused by different factors at play as to why an electronic component becomes subjected to excessive levels of heat. For instance, consumer electronic devices such as portable laptops and smartphones are becoming more prone to overheating. This is because the physical dimensions of these devices are becoming smaller and more compact. To be specific, as demand for smaller devices increases and becomes even more challenging, manufacturers of electronic components need to pack transistors into even small areas. With overheating, failure of the component is typical. The worst outcome is if an entire device overheats. This will consequently affect neighbouring materials and it must be considered how these materials will react if the temperature reaches the maximum possible level. Thermal gap fillers are the ideal solution for this scenario.

MacDermid Alpha Electronics Solutions enables electronics interconnection through the innovative specialty chemicals and materials from our Alpha, Compugraphics, Electrolube, Kester and MacDermid Enthone brands. We serve all global regions and all steps of device manufacturing within every segment of the electronics supply chain. The experts in our Semiconductor Solutions, Circuitry Solutions and Assembly Solutions divisions collaborate with OEMs and fabricators in the implementation of new technologies that redefine what is possible in device design. Our world class technical service is constantly at hand to ensure optimised outcomes in yield and productivity. Our solutions can increase throughput, reduce carbon footprints, lower total cost of ownership, and enable electronics innovation.

For further information, please visit: www.electrolube.com

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