How-To: Build a heat pipe

Computers & Mobile Science Technology
How-To:  Build a heat pipe

Heat pipes, I am obliged to point out, are awesome. When somebody first explained to me how they work, I was like, “No way. Uh-unh. Don’t believe you.” And yet they persist in existing, and working, in spite of my disbelief. I’m still getting over the pain.

Lots of people sell heat pipes to overclockers/PC performance hackers for processor cooling. But I’ve often wondered about other applications–dark, brooding, evil applications for which there may not be suitably diabolical commercial units. Hence I’m curious about rolling my own, and hence I’m very appreciative of Jim over at Benchtest.Com, who has built several of his own pipes, and done a great job documenting the process and the performance of the resulting devices.

6 thoughts on “How-To: Build a heat pipe

  1. Bob Darlington says:

    Here’s some info on my giant heat pipe of doom:

    I just use water as the working fluid. No need to get fancy. Just some trivia, heat pipes were invented right down the street from where I live, over at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

  2. DanYHKim says:

    I live in Las Cruces. Can I use an array of big heat pipes, like the one shown by Bob, to cool my house? Maybe by dumping heat into the evaporator of my swamp cooler?

    I guess a gravity-fed, non-wicking heat pipe would be called a ‘phase-transfer loop thermal diode’.

    1. Bob Darlington says:

      You can, but the engineering can get complicated. What I’ve seen over the years is people running multiple heat pipes in parallel through the concrete slab in their house and out, down a slight hill, to solar collectors to heat, rather than cool a house. You can simply turn a valve to stop heating in the summer time.

      I heard of an Aussie doing something similar, but going to a giant storage tank of liquid ammonia he kept insulated and underground. It would get really cold all winter, and he’d use that as a sink for the heat in the house. Perhaps he used heat pipes to help cool it in the winter.

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I am descended from 5,000 generations of tool-using primates. Also, I went to college and stuff. I am a long-time contributor to MAKE magazine and My work has also appeared in ReadyMade, c't – Magazin für Computertechnik, and The Wall Street Journal.

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