thermal pad vs paste

Thermal Pad vs Paste – Which Offers Better Thermal Conductivity?

If you’re looking to find out which is better thermal pad vs. paste, you have come to the right place. The thermal pads and thermal paste are what you call a thermally conductive material or substance we use for transferring heat between objects on circuit boards. We see the pads usually put between hot components and heat sink for conducting heat from that component to the sink. For the same purpose, a thermal paste is used by applying it through a syringe, which could get quite messy.

In this article, we will discuss what thermal pads are and how they work, what thermal paste is and how they work, their advantages and disadvantages, as well as which is better of the two. Keep reading to find out.

What are Thermal Pads, and How Do they Work?

Thermal pads are also described as thermal interface pads or TIM pads. The pads are pre-cut, which is made using highly thermally conductive materials like silicone, paraffin wax, and graphite.

We use them to fill in the gaps between components and heatsink, which are actually caused by smooth or imperfect and flat surfaces on thermal contact in order to facilitate transferring of heat.  

The thermal pads are actually firm at room temperature, and they become soft to be able to fill gaps when the temperature rises.

We could see the thermal pads at the bottom of the heatsinks of AMD or Intel processors.

It is also observed that the heat pads are conducting heat much less compared to even a little amount of thermal paste.

What is a Thermal Paste, and How Does It Work?

The thermal paste, also known as thermal grease or compound, is a vicious material that is made from both conductive and non-conductive stuff like silicone, metal particles, and ceramic particles.

They are used for filling gaps and the air pockets between the components and the heatsink for us to have efficient transferring of heat between them.

The paste is actually a semi-solid liquid that we apply between our IC and the heatsink. All you have to do is apply a small amount of it, and they will work excellently to fill the gap.

We normally place them inside a syringe and squeeze them on the surface as we need them.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Thermal Pads?

The thermal pads or the rectangular pre-formed pads that we see under the heatsink are essentially something we use for the convection of heat; these easily installed pads help us prevent any form of overheating while also cooling the surface.

Some of the advantages of using thermal pads include their durability; the pads are very durable with the type of material used; silicon, paraffin wax, and graphite. The pads are also scalable and quite easy to apply, conforming to irregular surfaces.

Another advantage is that they are available in so many sizes, thicknesses, and types. We also have these pads available in different temperature ranges as well to choose from. They are also willing to make custom pads based on whatever way we specify.

The pads don’t even need a heat cycle to bond on. The pads aren’t messy when we use them; we could even shape them according to the surface, and they are very suitable for medium and low-heating devices.

Their disadvantages include the fact they are expensive to use compared to the thermal paste. Over time, the thermal pads become very difficult to remove from the IC or the heat sink. The pads aren’t reusable as well. Each time you use a pad and once we remove the pad, we have to replace it with a new one.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste is also one other thermal interface substance we use for cooling the surface by filling the air pockets and gaps between the heatsink and the IC.

Some of their advantages include their ability to transfer heat efficiently away from our IC surface with only a little amount. Unlike the pads, they could be used on any type of surface because the paste is more of a liquid.

What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Thermal Paste

The paste is much easy to apply because they come in either a syringe or a dispenser. All we have to do is make a dot or an x-shaped form of the paste for it. The paste is quite affordable as they aren’t expensive like the pads.

The disadvantages include how messy they can get when applying because of the nature of the semi-solid liquid, especially when you’re using it for the first time.

When applying, it’s not like the pad, which covers pretty much all the gaps on its own; the paste is something we apply by hand, so keep looking for the air gaps and fill them without missing any.

Is Liquid Metal Pad Better than Thermal Paste?

The liquid metal pads are of indium, gallium, or tin, and because of this very fact, they are highly conductive. It makes them excellent for a more effective transfer of heat between your IC components and the heatsink. Because of their efficiency, the metal pads are 60-80 W/mK compared to the thermal pastes. So definitely, the liquid metal pads are better than thermal paste.

Liquid metal is much better because they don’t dry out or even degrade with time. And you don’t even have to reapply the pads so often like the thermal paste.

What Works Better than Thermal Paste?

When we compare the thermal paste, the thermal pads, and the liquid metal pads, it is definitely the liquid metal pad that works so much better.

They have high conductivity and are much more efficient as a great cooling material. Some of the people who have used both tell that the temperature actually reduced by 10-20 degree Celsius when they moved from the paste to liquid metal.

But if you’re looking for a fairly effective and cheap cooling solution, then the thermal paste would be your go-to option. Because the thermal paste, as long as you manage to fill all the air pockets thoroughly, works just as well as the thermal pads do. And compared to the $10 –20 for a gram of liquid metal, you only have to spend around $1-5 on thermal paste.

Since liquid metal also is reactive to copper, aluminum, and nickel solders, you could be risking short circuits and corrosion. So start with something like the thermal paste, and once you are familiar with the process, move up to using the liquid metal.

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Video Credits – JayzTwoCents

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