Thermal management solutions for the photonics industry

Photonics is the scientific study of light (photons), and Photonic devices are components that create, manipulate or detect light. The most common devices in need of advanced thermal solutions are laser diodes, high power light-emitting diodes, optical amplifiers and solar/photovoltaic cells, as these devices are dealing with ever-increasing amounts of concentrated waste heat.

End users are demanding not only that these types of components produce higher performance and increased system level capability, but also, low power consumption and high reliability. ACT’s two-phase solutions and innovative thermal engineering team are up for the challenge!


Thermal management solutions for the photonics industry, ACT creates custom solutions


Laser diode developers continue to create higher power solutions, and integrators are tasked with packaging those components into similar-sized or smaller packages. In every system, there is a power level that cannot be managed using traditional air- or water-cooled systems without increasing the space allotted to the thermal management system. When traditional cooling methods have been exhausted, passive two-phase heat transfer such as heat pipes and vapor chambers are well suited to meet the challenge of removing heat from the diode and efficiently transferring to an external heat sink. Pumped Two-Phase (P2P) is a likely choice for providing consistent temperature uniformity across the diode laser array.

Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), optical amplifiers and photovoltaics range dramatically in quantity of waste heat, but in most cases air cooling can be utilized as the ultimate heat sink. As power increases, and local metallic heat sinks become ineffective, designers turning to heat pipes find they can then effectively move the heat to larger volume external heat sinks, and see improved fin efficiencies with proper heat pipe placement. If heat flux is driving localized temperature rise, vapor chambers are considered; acting as a heat flux transformer and spreading heat to a larger fin stack.


Vibration Testing

High Heat Flux

Temperature Extremes

The Benefits of Photonics Thermal Solutions

Similar to inefficiencies in electronics’ components which lead to waste heat, photonics cannot convert all energy into light (or vice versa). These inefficiencies in conversion can lead to large amounts of waste heat in high-power photonics applications. If not rejected adequately, this can ultimately shorten the lifespan of the components and have negative effects on system performance and safety. In LEDs, for example, high temperatures decrease the diode’s efficiency and reduce its working lifespan. As a result, using appropriate cooling strategies within photonics systems provides many benefits. These include:

  • Better performance. Photonics cooling solutions improve laser and LED performance, as well as energy efficiency. Better performance means fewer resources expended and improved results within challenging applications.
  • Increased reliability. Thermal management solutions also help expand a laser or diode’s lifespan, resulting in greater long-term reliability. This is particularly important when using lasers for medical, aerospace and military applications.
  • Higher component density. Effective cooling solutions allow you to pack multiple photonic devices into a small space without worrying about overheating. A higher component density can reduce costs in electronics applications.

Thermal Solutions for Photonics Applications: Download the eBook

How ACT Provides Photonics Thermal Solutions

ACT has been servicing the Photonics industry for more than a decade, leveraging our thermal control capabilities to provide product design services, prototyping & testing, and full-range production of turn-key LED and photonics thermal management solutions. Our custom products consistently solve heat dissipation challenges and meet customer cost, reliability and performance requirements. Additional resources related to the photonics industry found throughout our website are compiled below.

Some of the specific cooling technologies for diode applications include:

  • Heat Pipe Assembly Heat sinks: Our heat pipes cool laser systems and optical components efficiently by passively transporting heat away from where it’s generated. Our heat pipes offer excellent shock and freezing tolerance, and they come in a thermal conductivity range of 10,000 to 100,000 Watts per meter-Kelvin. ACT heat pipes are integrated into custom board- or system-level heat sinks to provide optimized heat management.
  • Heat spreaders: Heat spreaders such as vapor chambers spread a concentrated heat load as well as moving heat to the ultimate heat sink. We offer heat spreaders made of materials including copper, aluminum and magnesium.
  • Pumped Two-Phase systems: This active solution pumps fluid over evaporator cold plates to take advantage of the high heat transfer of boiling. This provides the ability to manage high heat flux and high total power (even over large distances) while maintaining uniform temperatures across components. A dielectric working fluid is used for added reliability.

At ACT, we can design and manufacture a custom photonics thermal solution to meet your exact specifications. Our engineers will work closely with you to determine the right cooling option for your application. Our solutions can function at the device and system levels.

To learn more about our photonics cooling capabilities, reach out to us today.

ACT attends Photonics trade show

ACT attends Photonics 2020

What Other Industries Can Leverage ACT’s Photonics Cooling Expertise?

At ACT, we work with customers from a range of industries, developing laser and diode cooling solutions for advanced applications. Our engineers have backgrounds in a wide range of engineering fields, so you can count on us to provide options tailored to your needs. Any industry that uses high-powered photonics components needs strategies for heat dissipation. You could benefit from ACT’s system thermal control solutions if you use lasers, LEDs or other optical elements in:

  • Telecommunications
  • Biomedicine
  • Manufacturing
  • Aviation
  • Military
  • Power Electronics


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