Capillary-fed boiling in microporous copper inverse opals (CIOs) is capable of removing an excess of 1 kW/cm2 at 10–15 °C superheat over small wicking distances ∼ 200 μm. In order to remove heat from large area chips (> 1 cm2), longer capillary wicking distance is desired to reduce the manufacturing complexity of the 3D manifold for liquid delivery and vapor extraction. In this study, we propose graded copper inverse opals (g-CIOs) where smaller pores at the bottom provide high capillary pressure for liquid delivery, while larger pores at the top reduce viscous pressure drop for vapor extraction. This nonhomogeneous wicking material decouples the permeability and capillary pressure in the vertical and lateral directions, resulting in greater CHFs and capillary wicking distances. In this study, we demonstrate the feasibility of fabricating g-CIOs material with up to three different pore diameters (2 μm, 5 μm, and 10 μm) using a multi-step template sintering and copper electrodeposition process. We then leverage and expand upon a well-calibrated experimental model for the prediction of CHF in monoporous CIOs to map the performance metrics for g-CIOs. The model combines a hydraulic resistance network with Darcy’s law and accounts for the nonhomogeneous permeabilities in lateral and vertical directions. Using this model, we study the impact of total wick thickness and graded pore-size combinations on the critical heat fluxes and wicking distances. Our modeling results conclude that a two-layer g-CIOs can potentially reach ∼70% enhancement in the critical heat flux or ∼30% enhancement in the wicking length compared to monoporous CIOs of the same thickness. Our fabrication capability and preliminary modeling results offer the opportunity to design boiling tests with optimized g-CIOs and exploring the potential of dissipating high heat flux for large area cooling applications.

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