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Why is nickel used in heatsinks when it's worse than copper?




Usually, heatsinks are made of copper heat pipes that are wrapped in a block of aluminum foil. Copper has the best good thermal conductivity, 385 W / mK on average, while the aluminum conductivity reaches 250 W / mK, which is why they are the preferred material to make heatsinks. However, most of them are nickel plated, although the fact that nickel has a maximum output of only 90 W / mK. Is this not a performance issue?

Why nickel is used in heatsinks

In short, heatsinks are nickel to protect yourself from being hijacked. Copper is a metal corrodes and rushes easily (even more so when heatsink uses vapor chamber technology), as well as aluminum, which is in fact prone to corrosion, and aluminum oxide has a much higher thermal properties than nickel.

In contrast, nickel is a metal in the excellent relationship between corrosion resistance and elasticity. Therefore, heatsinks are nickel plated directly to protect them from corrosion and rust, so they can last for a long time, keeping their thermal energy from burning to heat.

How much is the performance of nickel-coated heatsinks?

Indeed, using a nickel-like material to cover the heatsinks is something, which is basic, which should reduce its effectiveness given its thermal power. However, the reality is quite different and the performance difference between nickel or not is ignored and ignored. Also, the secret to this being the case, lies in the process where the nickel is copper and aluminum for the heatsink, called made of energy (electro plating).

Made from connecting electricity (not a PC) to a metal part so that the electricity you pass through it is put into a bathtub of iron (made of nickel sulfate, nickel chloride and boric acid) at temperatures between 40 and 65 degrees; Electricity causes the bath atoms to hang onto the metal and stick together forever, ending the nickel insulation process.

For this to happen we cannot stop the use of anodes, the metal plates are very clean (nickel 99.997%). When one ion brings its metal atom to the cathode, the other immediately replaces it by cutting through the anode and moving to the cathode. In other words, the anode, made of pure pure nickel, is consumed and its atoms are placed on the heatsink.

Nickel plating process

The trick to this process is that the nickel layer coated with the heatsink metal is so small that it is reduced at the atomic level, so that although it has a small thermal cooling, it will in fact not affect the thermal performance heatsink; As we mentioned earlier, the performance reduction is very small it probably doesn't matter.

If the heatsink is not nickel packed, can it get bored?

Copper does not react with water, but acts slowly with atmospheric oxygen, forming a thin layer of brown oxide, turning to green carbonate when it dissolves to a high level.

Copper oxide

Answering the question: yes, they can rust. However, this is a slow process that will take a long time to occur, and one way to avoid that would be to repeatedly clean the heatsink and avoid touching it with bare hands (because the human skin contains certain acids that speed up their damage). However, some manufacturers are using other methods to prevent this from happening with no nickel, though very little.


Gamer, passionate about video games, technologies, gadgets and everything related to the world of electronics.

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