What is Thermal Grease?

Some semiconductor manufacturing professionals may be asking the following question: what is thermal grease? Thermal grease, also called thermal grease paste, thermal grease compound and thermal conductive gel, is a substance that is necessary for conducting heat at the highest possible temperature between two objects, typically a heatsink and a microprocessor.

Heatsinks and microprocessors often have some very minor inconsistencies on their surfaces, but even though they may seem insignificant, they actually have a rather large impact on heat conductivity. These microscopic curves on the surfaces of the heatsink and microprocessor allow air to seep in, reducing the ability of the heatsink to perform at its highest level. To avoid poor performance, thermal grease paste is applied to the top of the microprocessor and the base of the heatsink to completely seal off any areas where air could potentially collect.

Thermal grease paste comes in the following two forms:

  • Non-Conductive. Non-conductive thermal grease pastes are a popular choice in the semiconductor manufacturing industry. These types of thermal grease compounds are made up of such materials as silicone or zinc. While they don’t perform as well as metal based, conductive pastes, the difference in performance is small. Additionally, they are less risky as they don’t conduct electricity.
  • Conductive. Conductive thermal grease pastes are considered to be higher heat producers than the non-conductive. These thermal grease compounds consist of such metals as silver, copper or aluminum. While they are considered to be the better of the two forms of thermal grease pastes, they do require some risk. When applying conductive thermal grease pastes, it is essential that you not apply any of the substance to the pins or electrical components of the circuit board in order to avoid electrical shorts.

Both non-conductive and conductive thermal grease pastes are great solutions for sealing out the air to achieve higher conduction levels. When you use any type of thermal grease compound, you will be able to achieve up to 100 times greater heat conduction than you would if the air were present.

If you are in need of a thermal grease paste solution for the microprocessors in your operations, Shin-Etsu MicroSi can help. As a world leader in thermal interface material applications, we are constantly seeking the most recent technology and offer our customers a wide variety of thermal grease paste products. For more information on thermal grease compounds, please call us today at (480) 893-8898 or contact us online.

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