Thermal grease (also called CPU grease, heat paste, heat sink compound, heat sink paste, thermal compound, thermal gel, thermal interface material, thermal paste, or grey goo) is a kind of thermally conductive (but usually electrically insulating) adhesive, which is commonly used as an interface between heat sinks and heat sources (e.g., high-power semiconductor devices). The grease gives a mechanical strength to the bond between the heat sink and heat source, but more importantly, it eliminates air gaps or spaces (which act as thermal insulator) from the interface area.
Thermal grease consists of a polymerizable liquid matrix and large volume fractions of electrically insulating, but thermally conductive filler. Typical matrix materials are epoxies, silicones, urethanes, and acrylates, although solvent-based systems, hot-melt adhesives, and pressure-sensitive adhesive tapes are also available. Aluminum oxide, boron nitride, zinc oxide, and increasingly aluminum nitride are used as fillers for these types of adhesives. The filler loading can be as high as 70–80 wt %, and the fillers raise the thermal conductivity of the base matrix from 0.17–0.3 watts per meter Kelvin or W/(mK), up to about 2 W/(mK).
Silver thermal compounds may have a conductivity of 3 to 8 W/(m·K) or more. However, metal-based thermal grease can be electrically conductive and capacitive; if some flows onto the circuits it can cause malfunctioning and damage.
|Compound||Thermal conductivity (ca. 300 K)
(W m−1 K−1)
|Electrical resistivity (ca. 300 K)
|Thermal expansion coefficient
|Diamond||20 ‒ 2000||1016 ‒ 1020||0.8 (15 – 150 °C)|||
|Silver||418||1.465 (0 °C)|||
|Aluminum nitride||100 ‒ 170||> 1011||3.5 (300 – 600 K)|||
|β-Boron nitride||100||> 1010||4.9|||
- Computer cooling
- Phase-change material
- Thermally conductive pad
- Thermal adhesive
- List of thermal conductivities
- Werner Haller; et al. (2007), "Adhesives", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, pp. 58–59
- Otto Vohler; et al. (2007), "Carbon", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley
- Hermann Renner; et al. (2007), "Silver", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 7
- Peter Ettmayer; Walter Lengauer (2007), "Nitrides", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley, p. 5
- Hans G. Völz; et al. (2007), "Pigments, Inorganic", Ullmann's Encyclopedia of Industrial Chemistry (7th ed.), Wiley