- copper: 8.96
- aluminium: 2.7
- copper: -0.35
- aluminium: -0.95
What do these properties mean? For all the comparisons that follow, consider two materials of identical geometry.
Copper’s higher thermal conductivity means the temperature across the heatsink will be more uniform. This can be advantageous since the extremities of the heatsink will be warmer (and thus more effectively radiating), and the hot spot attached to the thermal load will be cooler.
Copper’s higher volumetric heat capacity means it will take a larger quantity of energy to raise the heat sink’s temperature. This means copper is able to «smooth out» the thermal load more effectively. That might mean brief periods of thermal load result in a lower peak temperature.
Copper’s higher density makes it heavier, obviously.
The differing anodic index of the materials might make one material more favorable if galvanic corrosion is a concern. Which is more favorable will depend on what other metals are in contact with the heat sink.
Based on these physical properties, copper would seem to have superior thermal performance in every case. But how does this translate to real performance? We must take into account not only the heatsink material, but how this material interacts with the ambient environment. The interface between the heatsink and its surroundings (air, usually) is very significant. Furthermore, the particular geometry of the heatsink is significant as well. We must consider all these things.
A study by Michael Haskell, Comparing the Impact of Different Heat Sink Materials on Cooling Performance performed some empirical and computational tests on aluminium, copper, and graphite foam heatsinks of identical geometry. I can grossly simplify the findings: (and I’ll ignore the graphite foam heatsink)
For the particular geometry tested, aluminium and copper had very similar performance, with copper being just a little bit better. To give you an idea, at a 1.5 m/s airflow, copper’s thermal resistance from the heater to the air was 1.637 K/W, while aluminium was 1.677. These numbers are so close it would be difficult to justify the additional cost and weight of copper.
As the heatsink becomes large compared to the thing being cooled, copper gains an edge over aluminium due to its higher thermal conductivity. This is because the copper is able to maintain a more uniform heat distribution, drawing the heat out to the extremities more effectively, and more effectively utilizing the entire radiating area. The same study did a computational study for a large CPU cooler and calculated thermal resistances of 0.57 K/W for copper and 0.69 K/W for aluminium.
Differences Between Aluminum And Copper Heat Sink
Heat sinks are materials built for the effective regulation of the heat temperature of any electronic or mechanical device. They have a base that lies on the surface of the device’s chip while having extended “fins. ” They serve as an “exchanger” that transmits the heat generated into a coolant or fluid medium. Heat sinks are also commonly found in computer hardware setup, which helps cool off your computer’s CPU, Chipsets, GPUs, and RAM.
This also enables your system to maximize performances without overheating, which causes lagging, and subsequently, fatal damage. This is achieved by moderating its temperature with enough air as possible. The most commonly used materials for heat sinks are aluminum and copper alloys.
Definition of Aluminum Heat Sinks
Aluminum heat sinks are mostly used due to their potent thermal conductivity, which is being measured at 235 W/m-K. They are used for pure thermal conductions, so they are one of the most widely applied metals on earth. They possess low density for machinery conduction while maintaining good strength in heat transition and device performance. Although its corrosion resistance is impressive, it is not as potent as the copper material. They are great for recycling too.
Definition of Copper Heat Sinks
On the other hand, copper heat sinks are applicable because they possess corrosion and antimicrobial resistance due to their effective thermal conductivity at over 400 W/m-K. Although they are not easily machined, they are still expensive and expansive, depending on their purity. This is why copper alloys are implemented for industrial lines like power plants, solar systems, and dams.
How they work
When your chip works, it heats up from intense usage. The work of the heat sink, while placed on it, helps distributed the heat emitted properly through the fins, keeping your chip at the right operational temperature.
When your chipset, GPU, or RAM is heating up, heat radiation and conduction are being assisted by the fluid flow, which takes the heat away, resulting in cooling. It is no news that overheating will destroy the whole function of an electronic, and this emphasizes the need for a good heat sink.
General use of heat sinks
To get the heat radiation in your device well-managed, it is important to use the heat sinks for functional and operational maximization. As I have mentioned earlier, a lower temperature will help your electronics yield excellent functionality while increasing their expected life. The performance of your heat sink is based on our velocity, fin design, surface treatment, and ultimately, choice of material.
Heat sinks involve many varieties of design constructions for computer and electric motherboards. Both aluminum and copper heat sinks come in these forms. There are:
- Extruded heat sinks
- Bonded heat sinks
- Forged heat sinks
- Stamped heat sinks
- CNC machining heat sinks
- Zipper fin heat sinks
There is a coolant fluid present in our electronics, and it is the work of your heat sink to dissipate the heat radiation flow through it. This is to keep your chipsets running on maximized performance without overheating or damage. Fin performance can also be measured with its thickness and height. When heat is being transferred to the fin, it combines with thermal resistance, and this tends to decrease heat, and fluid flow is increased.
The shape and design of your heat sink fins will always matter because it is the main conduit for heat transfer. When the fins of the heat sink are tightly designed, and there is no much airflow between them, there will be a significant decline in heat radiation performance. This results in the much dreaded overheating.
Differences between both sink types
Let’s take a look at some of the differences between both heat sink materials. Shall we?
While copper heat sinks radiate heat way better than machining aluminum, the latter also does its job effectively. The main difference I can point out here is that aluminum heat sinks do it on a smaller scale. For computers, most AMD graphic cards naturally overheat more than others like INTEL and HMD, so your testing solely depends on the type of chipsets.
I know you might be wondering what differentiates this point to heat dynamics. Well, I would say that thermal conductivity is just one part o the whole story. Copper heat sinks do pretty well with a thermal conductivity as they can help generate more power by maximizing the potential of the chipset. This is more reason why they are being used for powerful chipsets because they take advantage of their power. The heat dynamics is the stage where the heat emitted is being distributed.
Cooling, for me, is a thing of perception. Both heat sinks do well in cooling, but one has to do better than the other. The reason I will be going for the machining copper design is that as it conducts more heat, it makes for better heat distribution when the chipset or CPU is powerful. This is quite different with weaker chipsets.
Most light-use computer owners will refer to the aluminum chipset because it does excellently in that environment. Copper sinks might even go as far as overheating the weaker chipsets due to the high demand for energy and heat radiation.
Also, input performance is very different from output performance. Copper maximizes heat conduction and possibly, the performance of your GPUs. But what about the actual performance on screen? There is also the case of ambiance as copper does well in small spaces.
Build and extrusions
Aluminum alloys are softer, lighter, and better with air, making them the first choice for graphic cards and CPUs. Copper heat sinks are much heavier in comparison, but this does not amount to better performance because it all depends on the design and how it adapts to the electronics’ build. This has to be put into consideration when comparing both builds.
When trying to analyze the density of the heat sink system, you need to bear at the back of your mind that cost and efficiency need to be calculated. The denser the heat sink is, the more heat flow it will have to cope with.
I have also discovered that aluminum heat sinks are simple in extrusion, anodizing, and finning. This is because of its lighter build and can be customized with a wide array of materials. All these become extremely costly on the side of copper sinks where extrusion is difficult, and there is a high tendency of tool damage. Extrusion in copper also needs a high range of temperature to process.
Copper materials are not easily soldered or extruded like aluminum due to elasticity. With the growing form of electronic builds, modern high-power apps are being introduced yearly, and the question still lingers? Can simpler heat sinks like aluminum handle the heat flow involved? Copper sinks are better choices for roles in demanding workloads like effective battery packs, high-tech gaming, and inverters.
Identifying and choosing the right sink type
As I have mentioned numerous times during in this article, choosing the right sink type for you will depend on so many factors which we will be looking at here:
Type of heat transfer
The type of heat transfer depends on three modes; conduction, convection, and radiation. Both your copper and aluminum heat sinks work well with the three modules because they both deal with denser movement and higher temperatures. It just depends on the type and situation of the electronic.
The temperature of the situation
Relating with “type of heat transfer,” your device’s operating nature determines the way and manner the heat distributes. This works for both aluminum and copper sinks.
Weight and Costs of both sink types
Pure copper heat sinks are made with striking fan designs and finished with antioxidant treatment. They are quite heavy and weigh around 500g for amplifier cooling cookers and high-tech computers. The acquisition cost usually ranges from $30 to $50 depending on the size and type of use. Aluminum heat sinks possess more fins and have a cost range from $10 to $30, with an average weight of 275g.
The difference between aluminum heat sinks and copper is quite much despite their striking similarities. In order of application or usage, it is important to outline your recommendation while knowing what you want from your electronic or computer. These outlines include your system IP rating, product sizes, cost of the system, bulk cooling modules, insulation requirements, and components.
They will help you figure out the best ways of selecting the right heat sink for the computer or the electronic you are about to install the heat sink on. Most high-end systems do not work efficiently with aluminum sinkers, while copper sinkers will damage some. It is important to know this so as not to damage your entire system set up in an attempt to reduce heat emission.
What is the difference between aluminum and copper heatsink? — i2HARD
A bit of theory
Thermal conductivity is the process of transferring internal energy from more heated parts of the body (or bodies) to less heated parts (or bodies), carried out by randomly moving particles of the body (atoms, molecules, electrons, etc. ). Such heat transfer can occur in any body with a non-uniform temperature distribution, but the mechanism of heat transfer will depend on the state of aggregation of the substance. The phenomenon of thermal conductivity lies in the fact that the kinetic energy of atoms and molecules, which determines the temperature of a body, is transferred to another body during their interaction or is transferred from more heated areas of the body to less heated areas. Sometimes thermal conductivity is also called a quantitative assessment of the ability of a particular substance to conduct heat. In the International System of Units (SI), the unit of measure for the coefficient of thermal conductivity is W / (m K) (W / m * K)
So we come to the main difference between the two radiators, namely the difference between the thermal conductivity of copper and aluminum. Copper has 401 W/m*K and aluminum has 237 W/m*K. These are ideal values, pure copper or aluminum is not always found, so the numbers may vary slightly. Thus, copper «conducts heat» 1.69 times better than aluminum.
Ok, but why are most radiators aluminum?
- Price. Copper is about 4 times more expensive than aluminum, so it is more economical to use aluminum than copper.
- Weight. Copper radiators are significantly heavier than aluminum ones, unless we are talking about small radiators where the difference in weight will be negligible.
It would seem that everything is in motherboards in most cases, aluminum heatsinks are used, and this could be the end, if not one more nuance.
Let’s remember the tower coolers, which have a nickel-plated copper base through which copper heat pipes pass and on which thin aluminum plates are pressed or soldered, or radiators on motherboards with a copper pipe. Why mix two materials when you can make everything either copper or aluminum? Part of the answer above, cost-to-cooling performance ratio is one of the good reasons a user will choose one cooling system over the other.
Let’s remember the tower coolers, which have a nickel-plated copper base through which copper heat pipes pass and on which thin aluminum plates are pressed or soldered, or radiators on motherboards with a copper pipe. Why mix two materials when you can make everything either copper or aluminum? Part of the answer above, cost-to-cooling performance ratio is one of the good reasons a user will choose one cooling system over the other. There is another reason — thermal inertia.
Thermal inertia is a term used primarily in engineering and scientific modeling of heat transfer and refers to the combination of material properties related to thermal conductivity and volumetric heat capacity.
Volumetric heat capacity characterizes the ability of a given volume of a given specific substance to increase its internal energy when the temperature of the substance changes.
The thermal inertia of copper is higher than that of aluminium, but what does this mean in practice? Yes, copper «conducts heat» excellently, while copper is «reluctantly» cooled. During the cooling process, it is necessary both to remove heat from the heating source and to remove heat from the radiators themselves, which usually occurs due to the air flow. Aluminum, in turn, does not “conduct” heat so well, heats up not so evenly, but at the same time has a lower thermal inertia. Thus, due to the manufacture of thin aluminum plates that heat up faster than thick ones and fans, they are constantly and fairly quickly cooled. Of course, physics cannot be deceived, and each radiator or cooling system has its own efficiency for which it is designed, beyond which, under normal conditions, it cannot go.
Differences between aluminum and copper heatsink
Heatsinks are materials designed to effectively control the heat temperature of any electronic or mechanical device. They have a base lying on the surface of the device chip, while having extended «fins». They serve as a «heat exchanger» that transfers the released heat to a coolant or fluid. Heatsinks are also often used when tuning computer hardware, which helps keep the CPU, chipsets, GPUs, and computer RAM cool.
This also allows your system to maximize performance without overheating, resulting in lag and resulting fatal damage. This is achieved by lowering its temperature with the help of a sufficient amount of air. The most commonly used materials for heatsinks are aluminum and copper alloys.
Definition of aluminum heatsinks
Aluminum heatsinks are mainly used because of their high thermal conductivity, measured at 235 W/mK. They are used for pure thermal conduction, which is why they are one of the most widely used metals on earth. They have a low density for carrying machines while maintaining good heat transfer strength and device performance. Although its corrosion resistance is impressive, it is not as efficient as the copper material. They are also great for recycling.
Definition of copper heat sinks
On the other hand, copper heat sinks are applicable because they are corrosion and antimicrobial resistant due to their effective thermal conductivity of over 400 W/mK. Although they are not easy to process, they are still expensive and expensive depending on their purity. This is why copper alloys are used for industrial lines such as power plants, solar systems and dams.
How they work
When your chip is running, it gets hot from heavy use. The operation of the heatsink placed on it helps to properly distribute the heat radiated through the fins, maintaining the correct operating temperature of the chip.
When your chipset, GPU, or RAM gets hot, heat radiation and heat conduction is aided by fluid flow, which removes heat, resulting in cooling. It’s not news that overheating will destroy the entire operation of electronics, and this highlights the need for good heat dissipation.
General use of heatsinks
In order to effectively manage the thermal radiation of your device, it is important to use heatsinks for maximum functional and operational efficiency. As I mentioned earlier, cooler temperatures will help your electronics deliver superior functionality while increasing life expectancy. The performance of your radiator depends on our speed, fin design, surface finish and ultimately material choice.
Types of production
Heatsinks include many varieties of designs for computer and electrical motherboards. In these forms, there are both aluminum and copper radiators. Yes:
- Extruded Radiators
- Glued radiators
- Forged Radiators
- Stamped radiators
- CNC machining radiators
- Ribbed Radiators with Zippers
Our electronics contain coolant and your heatsink’s job is to dissipate heat radiation through it. This is necessary to keep your chipsets running at peak performance without overheating or being damaged. The performance of a fin can also be measured by its thickness and height. When heat is transferred to the fin, it combines with thermal resistance to reduce heat and increase fluid flow.
The shape and design of the radiator fins will always matter as they are the main heat transfer channel. When the heatsink fins are tightly constructed and there is no strong airflow between them, the heat radiation performance will be greatly degraded. This leads to terrible overheating.
Differences between both types of sinks
Let’s look at some of the differences between both types of radiator materials. Shall we?
Although copper radiators radiate heat much better than aluminum processing, the latter also does its job effectively. The main difference I can point out here is that aluminum heatsinks do this on a smaller scale. For computers, most AMD graphics cards naturally overheat more than others such as INTEL and HMD, so your testing depends solely on the type of chipsets.
I know you might be wondering what makes this point different from heat dynamics. Well, I would say that thermal conductivity is only part of the whole story. Copper heatsinks do a pretty good job of conducting heat as they can help generate more power by maximizing the potential of the chipset. This is another reason why they are used for powerful chipsets because they use their power. Heat dynamics is the stage at which the generated heat is distributed.
Cooling, for me, is a matter of perception. Both heatsinks cool well, but one should perform better than the other. The reason I will go for copper construction is because because it conducts more heat, it provides better heat distribution when the chipset or processor is powerful. Things are quite different with weaker chipsets.
Most low power computer owners will turn to the aluminum chipset because it performs so well in this environment. Copper absorbers can even go so far as to overheat weaker chipsets due to high energy demand and thermal radiation.
Also, input performance is very different from output performance. Copper maximizes the thermal conductivity and possibly the performance of your GPUs. But what about actual on-screen performance? There is also the case of atmosphere, as copper works well in small spaces.
Assembly and Extrusions
Aluminum alloys are softer, lighter and more air-friendly, making them the best choice for graphics cards and processors. Copper heatsinks are much heavier in comparison, but that doesn’t mean better performance because it all depends on the design and how it adapts to the electronics build. This should be taken into account when comparing both assemblies.
When attempting to analyze the density of a radiator system, you must keep in mind that cost and efficiency must be calculated. The denser the heatsink, the more heat flow it must handle.
I also found that aluminum heatsinks are easy to extrude, anodize and fin. This is due to its lighter construction and the ability to be made from a wide variety of materials. All this becomes extremely costly for copper sinks where extrusion is difficult and tool damage is high. Copper extrusion also requires high temperatures.
Copper materials are not as easily brazed or extruded as aluminum due to elasticity. With the growth in the number of electronic assemblies, modern powerful applications are being introduced every year, and the question is still relevant? Can simpler heatsinks like aluminum handle the heat flow? Copper heatsinks are the best choice for demanding workloads such as efficient batteries, high-tech games, and inverters.
Identifying and choosing the right type of sink
As I have repeatedly mentioned in this article, choosing the right type of sink for you will depend on a variety of factors, which we will look at here:
Type of heat transfer
Type of heat transfer depends on three modes; conduction, convection and radiation. Both your copper and aluminum heatsinks work well with three modules because they both deal with tighter traffic and higher temperatures. It just depends on the type and position of the electronics.
Temperature of the situation
As for the «type of heat transfer», the nature of your device’s operation determines how and how the heat is distributed. This works for both aluminum and copper sinks.
Weight and cost of both types of sinks
Pure copper radiators with striking fan designs and treated with antioxidants. They are quite heavy and weigh about 500g for amplified cookers and high tech computers. Acquisition costs typically range from $30 to $50 depending on size and type of use.