If we had to choose a point where manufacturers do not hesitate to cut costs, this is undoubtedly the cooling of the components, not in vain, we have already seen more than once how the use of better thought out and more efficient solutions has ended being of higher quality. This shows that in PC components it is something that many manufacturers overlook, since they expect the end user to make the purchase and choice of said materials.
Liquid metal as a coolant? How is it possible?
The idea is none other than to use a type of metal to conduct heat out of the chip. Surely mercury has come to mind in your imagination, however, its vapors are toxic enough to send you down the hole in no time. So gallium is used, a type of metal that at room temperature and whose boiling point is much higher than what the hottest of your chips will ever reach.
It is impossible for gallium as thermal paste to school as many say, since physically it is like a metallic butter and it does not liquefy even more when it reaches temperatures above 100º C. Of course, if you have the chip vertically with respect to the ground and the thermal paste is not well insulated, then it can happen that being a metal, when it comes into contact with the plate it creates problems on the device. Let’s not forget that like all metal, a thermal paste based on liquid metal is also electrically conductive.
Is it better than a conventional thermal paste?
Well yes, since it can dissipate much more heat and therefore it will prevent the components of your computer from reaching high temperatures. In numbers, the best conventional thermal pastes have a dissipation capacity of 15 watts per meter-kelvin, while gallium-based thermal paste achieves 73 watts per meter-kelvin.
So it is ideal in systems with a small chip with which we want to reach a high clock speed in a stable and smooth way. Hence its use in ultralight laptops. However, it is difficult to apply and requires great caution or specialized assemblies where it is fully encapsulated. Furthermore, in many systems, in order not to break the security seal, it is recommended not to disassemble the encapsulation of the processor and the heatsink.
A different case is that you are going to do it yourself, in that case you can apply it like a conventional thermal paste, but you will have to be very careful when applying it and not go overboard. If you are clumsy, we recommend that a specialist apply it to your PC’s processor.
Why is it hardly used if it is better?
There are several reasons for this, but mainly because of the way it behaves with other metals that are often used to encapsulate certain chips. For example, it is not recommended to use it with aluminum due to the fact that both metals end up combining and creating an alloy with an oxide layer in the process. Said layer, if it is not large enough, will create an exothermic reaction that generates a large amount of heat. That is why combining a liquid metal thermal paste with an aluminum heatsink is not a good idea.
Most heatsinks are made of aluminium, since it is more common and easier to find than copper, with which gallium works without any problem. The problem is that this means in many cases an additional cost and that is why many manufacturers of graphics cards, in order to save on costs, end up using aluminum heatsinks or heatsinks.