Two-phase microfluidic cooling has the potential to achieve low thermal resistances with relatively small pumping power requirements compared to single-phase heat exchanger technology. Two-phase cooling systems face practical challenges however, due to the instabilities, large pressure drop, and dry-out potential associated with the vapor phase. Our past work demonstrated that a novel vapor-venting membrane attached to a silicon microchannel heat exchanger can reduce the pressure drop for two-phase convection. This work develops two different types of vapor-venting copper heat exchangers with integrated hydrophobic PTFE membranes and attached thermocouples to quantify the thermal resistance and pressure-drop improvement over a non-venting control. The first type of heat exchanger, consisting of a PTFE phase separation membrane and a 170 micron thick carbon-fiber support membrane, shows no improvement in the thermal resistance and pressure drop. The results suggest that condensation and leakage into the carbon-fiber membrane suppresses venting and results in poor device performance. The second type of heat exchanger, which evacuates any liquid water on the vapor side of the PTFE membrane using 200 ml/min of air, reduces the thermal resistance by almost 35% in the single-phase regime in comparison. This work shows that water management, mechanical and surface properties of the membrane as well as its attachment and support within the heat exchanger are all key elements of the design of vapor-venting heat exchangers.

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