Advanced Cooling Technologies honored by 2021 Military & Aerospace Electronics Innovators Awards

Lancaster PA– Advanced Cooling Technologies (ACT) announced today that its ICE-LokTM line of products was recognized as being among the best innovations by the 2021 Military & Aerospace Electronics Innovators Awards. An esteemed and experienced panel of judges from the aerospace and defense community recognized ACT as a Platinum honoree. Additionally, ACT received a Gold-level honoree status for its Space Copper-Water Heat Pipe technology.

“On behalf of the Military & Aerospace Electronics Innovators Awards, I would like to congratulate ACT on their Platinum-level honoree status,” said Military & Aerospace Electronics Editor in Chief John Keller. “This competitive program allows Military & Aerospace Electronics to celebrate and recognize the most innovative products impacting the aerospace and defense community this year.”


Platinum Honoree: About ICE-LokTM

The patented Isothermal Card Edge ICE-Lok™ is designed to enhance thermal performance for conduction-cooled embedded computing systems. Compared to conventional wedge locks, the ICE-Lok™ creates additional heat transfer paths from card to chassis, thereby reducing the thermal resistance. ICE-Lok™ was developed on Air Force Research Laboratory SBIR Phase II Contract.

ACT’s ICE-Lok™ is a novel wedge lock that provides a thermal performance benefit over existing solutions on the market, thermally outperforming standard wedge locks by greater than 30%.  The ICE-Lok™ expands in all four directions, allowing it to engage the heat spreader and chassis on all four sidewalls. This not only doubles the contact surface area but also introduces lower thermal resistance paths for the heat to transfer from board to chassis.

While existing solutions provided strong mechanical functionality, they are not able to keep up with the trend of increasing processing power the military embedded computing market has been experiencing. In a conduction-cooled system, which is the most desirable structure due to higher reliability, all heat must be transferred through the wedge lock to the chassis and rejected via air or liquid externally. While the traditional wedge lock is a short thermal path, it quickly becomes a bottleneck due to its inability to create a path of low resistance through the multi-wedge system. Driving down this temperature gradient provides significant flexibility to the other thermal paths in the systems as well as providing thermal margin, higher reliability, and longer life to the high-cost electronics components.

The ICE-Lok™ is not only able to increase thermal performance and subsequently add reliability and safety for the system, but it is also a drop-in replacement in any VITA 48.2 chassis. This means there is no need to redesign the board or the chassis to utilize this superior product; the industry developed the VITA protocols for this type of scenario, to allow suppliers in the industry to create enhanced products that are also convenient for designers to adopt and retrofit into existing systems. ACT’s Lead Engineer of Embedded Systems, Greg Hoeschele commented:

“We’re excited to see the ICE-Lok™ product make an impact for engineers looking to enhance their high performance systems!”

End-users and integrators need not make changes to their existing process since the activation mechanism is identical to standard designs. With the ICE-Lok™ you get a drop-in mechanical replacement, with up to 30% better thermal performance.

Gold Honoree: About Space Copper-Water Heat Pipes

Copper-water heat pipes operate in a slightly higher temperature range than aluminum-ammonia heat pipes, making them ideal for operation closer to the electronics in the satellite thermal network. The water working fluid, combined with a sintered wick structure, is able to handle the heat fluxes from electronics chips that are often too high to be handled by conventional ammonia constant conductance heat pipes (CCHPs). ACT’s Space Copper-Water Heat Pipes were validated in microgravity by testing on the International Space Station (ISS) under a NASA Marshall SBIR Phase II Contract.

In terrestrial applications, precise fluid charge is the key to a freeze-thaw tolerant heat pipe. The fluid must be fully contained in the wick, allowing the wick to “absorb” the expansion during freezing. The same principles exist in space although the qualification protocols and cycle counts add complexity to the challenge. ACT developed proprietary manufacturing techniques to address several areas that the terrestrial heat pipe has not solved such as: precise and repeatable fluid charge, continuous wick, end cap design and weld techniques to avoid any sharp surfaces that may promote fluid buildup.

The current GEN III SCWHP has survived qualification programs that include 100s of freeze-thaw cycles (bring entire pipe above and below freezing), frozen start-up (freeze pipe in worst case orientation and input power) and powered freeze-thaw (continuous power into the evaporator and continuous freezing of the condenser). ACT has worked with a small fraction of early adopters at the board level and prime satellite integrator level to fully understand all happenings throughout the development process. Routine CT scans of pipes at various stages enabled a quick cycle to address so many different areas of the manufacturing process.

SCWHPs enable aerospace engineers to develop boxes with much higher computing power. The heat flux capability of SCWHP is > 5x that of traditional ammonia pipes and the heat transfer rate, in terms of effective conductivity is > 10x that of solid-state heat spreaders.

“Compared to other heat pipe working fluid options with lower freezing temperatures, such as ammonia or methanol; other thermophysical properties of water make it significantly better as a heat pipe working fluid,” said Senior Engineer Clayton Hose.

The significant advantages include:

(1) higher heat flux capability and (2) better surface tension, which enables operation against gravity. We have discussed the critical nature of item 1 as power densities increase however, the ability to operate against gravity provides significant benefit to the satellite integrator who often needs to test the “box” at any orientation. Previously, significant effort must be made to ensure the ability to prove out technology in a 1-g environment. Running at lower power(s), alternate temperature(s) or using 2D configurations are some methods that have been used, but add risk to a program. SCWHP can provide payloads and avionics, the ability to operate in any orientation for final ground test programs, increasing the confidence and system-level operational traceability prior to launch.


Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine delivers time-sensitive news, in-depth analyses, case studies, and real-world applications of new products, industry opinion, and the latest trends in the use of mil-spec, rugged, and commercial off-the-shelf components, subsystems, and systems.

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