Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Design Properties for Engineers: Thermal Conductivity of High Performance Polymers

 In this blog post we discuss the thermal conductivity of filled and unfilled high performance polymers.

Thermal conductivity is a key figure to show the thermal transfer of different materials. Polymers have compared to metals (45 W/mK average value) a very low thermal conductivity. Semi-crystalline polymers have a higher thermal conductivity compared to amorphous polymers since the crystalline regions allow a better heat transfer. In amorphous polymers, polymer chains are unstructured and this leads to a lower thermal conductivity. Furthermore, thermal conductivity is higher in processing (= orientation) direction than perpendicular to it. This can be observed in injection moulding parts with thin wall thickness.

Unfilled high performance polymers behave similar in their thermal conductivity and not many differences can be observed (Table 1). Thermal conductivity can be immediately increased by adding carbon fiber or graphite (Table 2). Improved thermal conductive plays an important role in high temperature applications, where an improved heat transfer between metal housing and plastic part leads to better mechanical part endurance. Therefore it is important to consider such a requirement during the polymer material selection process.

Table 1: Thermal conductivity of unfilled high performance polymers

Table 2: Thermal conductivity of filled high performance polymers

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