Electrical Pumping-Based Active Heat Pipes

Physical Sciences : Mechanical

Available for licensing


  • Vaibhav (VB) Bahadur , University of Texas at Austin
  • Renee Hale , University of Texas at Austin

Background/unmet need

Heat pipe technology allows for efficient and fast transfer of heat from heat-generating elements to a cold sink. The heat pipe relies on liquid evaporation (hot end) and condensation (cold end), accompanied by liquid flow back to the hot end.

Conventional heat pipes utilize capillary action in an internal wick structure to drive liquid circulation from the condenser to the evaporator. They are excellent and passive heat transfer devices, but their performance is limited by the maximum fluid flow rate that the wicks can sustain. Current heat pipes cannot transport heat over very long distances, while heat pipe architectures are bulky and unconventional. In order to improve the performance of heat pipes, the traditional heat pipe wick system must be replaced by some new technology that can overcome current limitations.

Invention Description

Researchers at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a heat pipe concept which replaces the traditional heat pipe wick with active electrical pumping. This low-power electrical pumping scheme can reliably transport liquid condensate over long distances, and offers possibilities to overcome other wick-related performance limitations in present-day heat pipes.

The unique evaporator section of heat pipe increases evaporation surface area, thereby increasing evaporation and heating rates. The liquid flow from the condenser back to the evaporator is also enhanced by the use of oil-infused textured surfaces for additional lubrication of the fluid. Overall, the invented heat pipe design has the potential to significantly increase the evaporation-condensation cycle speed for greater efficiency.


  • Compatible with multiple working fluids including water, organic solvents, ionic liquids etc.
  • Overcomes wick-related performance limitations
  • Allows transportation of heat via heat pipes over long distances
  • Enables sophisticated thin heat pipe design
  • Unexplored opportunities for enhanced and dynamic control to handle transients


  • Active heat pipe technology
  • Very low power consumption
  • Absence of moving parts
  • Noiseless operation

Market potential/applications

According to Markets and and Markets Research, the heat exchangers market is expected to reach $19.14 billion by 2021 at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2%. Heat exchangers, such as heat pipes, are essential to the heating and cooling of raw materials and final products. Notable applications of heat piping include solar installations, thermal management solutions, and downhole thermal management for oil and gas companies.

Development Stage

Proof of concept

IP Status

  • 1 U.S. patent application filed