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Cooling Technologies Research Center (CTRC)

Purdue University

Last Reviewed: 04/30/2017

Improving the understanding and technology of high-performance heat removal from compact spaces.

Center Mission and Rationale

The Compact, High-Performance Cooling Technologies Research Center (CTRC) addresses the needs of industry members in the area of high-performance heat removal from compact spaces. Some examples include power electronics, transformers, base stations in cellular communications, automotive electronics, portable and wearable electronics, electric vehicle batteries, power distribution systems in computers, military electronics and avionics, and food processing. In most cases, the use of sophisticated cooling techniques is a must in view of the space and performance constraints imposed. Even when compactness is not the primary concern, use of these techniques can lead to large gains in efficiency and performance improvements.

The CTRC addresses pre-competitive, longer-term research and development issues in the area of high-performance heat removal from compact spaces. The agenda for the Center is set on a yearly basis with research projects identified through a ranking by all members. Regular updates on the work are made available to members through a restricted-access web page. The Center meets twice a year to review progress and choose upcoming projects.

Research program

Compact, High-Performance Cooling Technologies

The research conducted in the Center in the area of compact, high-performance cooling technologies is driven by industry needs. A list of research projects is developed based on input from industry, and is continually updated. Research projects to be adopted are based on ranking by all members. Miniaturization of cooling technologies is an important common theme running through the projects. While the projects adopted are driven by existing and potential practical applications, the emphasis is on obtaining a better understanding of the "root" of the technology, while addressing specific implementation questions in a pre-competitive framework.

The scope of the Center's activities includes research projects which employ a combined experimental/computational approach to arrive at technology development relevant to its industry members, as well as literature surveys, reviews of industry practice, and patent searches, which serve to inform industry members of the latest developments in the application of cooling technologies. Recent breakthroughs from the different projects can be located at:

A partial listing of the envisioned research projects for the Center is provided below, a number of which are being conducted as ongoing projects:

  • Microchannel heat sinks and heat exchangers
  • Boiling from micro- and nano-structured surfaces
  • Microjets and jet impingement; spray cooling
  • Cryogenic and low-temperature cooling
  • Integration of microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) at the device level
  • Miniature “smart” piezoelectric fans; synthetic jets
  • Ion-driven air flows
  • Low-noise fans and blowers
  • Acoustics and noise control
  • Miniature refrigeration systems
  • Micropumps and miniature compressors
  • Electrowetting
  • Superhydrophobic surfaces for enhanced thermal transport
  • Molecular sensors
  • Nanofluids transport
  • Thermal contact resistance prediction and mitigation
  • Ultra high-performance carbon nanotube and graphene-based interface materials
  • Tunable and high conductivity materials
  • Nonconventional and miniaturized heat pipes
  • Thin-film evaporation
  • Heat transfer in foam and wick structures
  • Phase change energy storage
  • Heat transfer in compact heat exchangers
  • Heat sink design, characterization and optimization
  • Thermoelectrics
  • Waste-heat recovery
  • Novel micro- and nano-scale diagnostics

Facilities and Laboratory

The experiments for the Center's research projects are carried out by its faculty, post-doctoral researchers, and graduate and undergraduate students in a number of laboratories at Purdue, including:

  • Birck Nanotechnology Center
  • Electronics Cooling Laboratory
  • Microsystems Diagnostics Laboratory
  • Thermal Systems Research Facilities at Herrick Laboratories
  • Acoustics and Noise Control Facilities at Herrick Laboratories
  • Hierarchical Design and Characterization Laboratory
  • Microstructure Testing and Analysis Laboratory
  • Nanoscale Energy Transport and Conversion Laboratory
  • Quantum Matter and Devices Lab
  • Heterogeneous Integration Research Group
  • Dynamic Systems and Stability Laboratory

These facilities contain state-of-the-art computing and test equipment for fluidic, thermal, and acoustic measurement and characterization, measurement of material properties, microfabrication, and numerical simulation.


Purdue University

Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering
585 Purdue Mall

West Lafayette, Indiana, 47907-2088

United States