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CPU Cooler Heat Pipes [What, Why, & How]

Let's learn about important heat transfer mechanism, i.e., heat pipes, their working principle, and various uses.

The evolutionary high performance of PC components comes at the expense of more power consumption and heat generation. Therefore, it is crucial to dissipate that heat for the proper functioning of a PC build. There are various techniques and mechanisms that deal with this concern. One such supporting mechanism is a heat pipe. I will help you understand heat pipes and their complete working principles in this article.

Also Read: What Is RPM In PC Fans?


Key Takeaways

  • Heat pipes are typically made of copper or aluminum and house a specialized liquid for efficient heat transfer.
  • These pipes operate on the principle of phase change. As heat source temperatures rise, the liquid within heat pipes evaporates and moves to a cooler end. Consequently, the vapor coolant condenses back into a liquid and returns to the source through capillary action.
  • Passive cooling relies solely on this phase change process, offering silent and energy-efficient operation. Active cooling systems combine phase change with fans or pumps, potentially producing noise and consuming more power.
  • Properly cleaning heat pipes within a PC is essential for maintaining thermal performance, as dust and debris accumulation can hinder their effectiveness.

What Are Heat Pipes?

DeepCool AK620 heat pipes
The DeepCool AK620 houses six heat pipes. Image Credits (Tech4Gamers)

A heat pipe is a small sealed tube typically made of materials like copper or aluminum. Inside this heat pipe, there is a special liquid or coolant. This coolant is often a low-boiling-point substance like water or a mixture of water and other compounds. The purpose of this liquid is to efficiently transfer heat away from the heat source, such as the CPU, towards a heat sink. From there, that heat is dissipated in the environment.

Heat pipes are an integral part of CPU and GPU cooling solutions because they provide a highly efficient means of heat transfer for your PC components. Such efficient and quick heat transfer enables these components to operate at lower temperatures and maintain optimal performance. They are often incorporated into heat sinks and heat spreaders to help keep PCs running smoothly, especially in high-performance systems where heat management is critical.

How Does A Heat Pipe Work?

DeelCool Assassin III CPU Cooler
DeelCool Assassin III CPU Cooler Heat Pipes (Image by Tech4Gamers)

The way heat pipe works is based on a simple yet effective principle, i.e., phase change. As the heat source (e.g., CPU) heats up, the liquid inside the heat pipe absorbs this heat and quickly evaporates. Due to this absorbed heat, that liquid turns into vapor. This vapor then moves through the pipe to the cooler end, where it loses heat and condenses back into a liquid. This condensed liquid then flows back towards the heat source by capillary action driven by the porous structure of the wick inside the heat pipe.

The cycle of evaporation and condensation continues, creating a continuous and highly efficient heat transfer process. In this way, the working fluid rapidly transports the heat generated from the source and distributes it to the heat sink. The heat sink then disperses the heat into the air with the help of fans or other cooling methods.

Also Read: CPU Cooler Buying Guide

Passive Vs. Active Cooling Using Heat Pipes

Thermalright Frozen Magic 360 Scenic V2 Radiator Pump (Image by Tech4Gamers)
Thermalright Frozen Magic 360 Scenic V2 Radiator Pump (Image by Tech4Gamers)

As apparent by name, passive cooling with heat pipes relies solely on the principles of heat transfer through phase change. In passive cooling systems, there is no need for additional mechanical components like fans or pumps. Whereas active cooling systems incorporate additional components like fans or pumps to facilitate fluid movement within heat pipes. Below is a concise comparison of these two:

Passive Cooling Using Heat Pipes Active Cooling Using Heat Pipes
Relies on phase change (evaporation and condensation) for heat transfer Combines phase change with mechanical components like fans or pumps
Silent or nearly silent operation due to the absence of fans or pumps It may produce noise due to the operation of fans or pumps
Highly energy-efficient as it doesn’t require electricity for fans or pumps Typically, it consumes more power due to the active components
Heat load is limited by the passive nature of heat pipes Can handle higher heat loads and offer better thermal management
Tends to be compact and space-efficient It may require more space
Generally reliable with no moving parts to wear out Reliability can be affected by the durability of the fans or pumps
Often more cost-effective due to simplicity and fewer components Typically involves higher costs due to the inclusion of fans or pumps
Commonly found in embedded systems and other low-power, noise-sensitive applications Used in gaming laptops, desktop computers, servers, and systems with demanding cooling requirements

How To Clean Heat Pipes PC?

ALSEYE M90 Heat Pipes (Image by Tech4Gamers)
ALSEYE M90 Heat Pipes (Image by Tech4Gamers)

Cleaning heat pipes in a PC is essential for maintaining proper thermal performance and preventing overheating. Over time, heat sinks and heat pipes can accumulate dust and debris, reducing their effectiveness in dissipating heat. Here are steps on how to clean heat pipes:

  1. Open the PC case.
  2. Identify the heat pipes.
  3. Remove any obstructions if necessary.
  4. Use compressed air to blow out loose dust and debris, ensuring it’s directed away from internal components.
  5. Gently brush away the remaining dust and particles from the heat pipes and heat sinks.
  6. Clean the heat pipes and heat sinks with a cloth dampened with isopropyl alcohol.
  7. Reassemble any components you removed earlier.
  8. Close the PC case.
  9. Power on the PC and monitor its temperature and performance to ensure normal operation.

Regularly cleaning your PC’s heat pipes and heat sinks is crucial for maintaining proper cooling and preventing overheating issues. Depending on your environment and usage, you may need to clean your PC components every few months or as necessary to keep your PC running optimally. If you need further guidance on cleaning, refer to our following guides:

FAQs

How many heat pipes for a PC do you need?

The number of heat pipes you require varies depending on the specific thermal requirements of your PC components. However, most high-performance CPU or GPU coolers use at least 2-4 heat pipes for effective heat dissipation.

Is it safe for cables in my PC to be touching heat pipes?

It’s generally safe for cables to touch heat pipes, as they are designed to handle moderate heat. However, you should ensure cables don’t obstruct airflow or come in direct contact with extremely hot components for extended periods to prevent potential damage or performance issues.

Why add a copper pipe heat sink to a PC?

Adding a copper pipe heat sink to a PC enhances heat dissipation from critical components like the CPU or GPU. It helps to maintain lower operating temperatures and improve overall performance by preventing overheating.

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