All You Need to Know About Thermal Paste

If you are in the field of electronics or have some knowledge about the hardware and working of a computer, then you may well aware about the thermal paste. Here in this article, we are making more focus on it and let you know what exactly a thermal paste, how it works and what are the types of it.

What is a Thermal Paste?

Thermal paste is a sort of sticky paste, which is straightaway laid on the integrated circuit or the Central Processing Unit (CPU) to uphold and pass better heat conduction between the surfaces of both the devices. This is the only reason why it is called thermal grease. It is quite close to the grease and majorly used in the same manner. The applications of the two are very much similar in nature. When you do overclocking with your CPU or when the processor gets overheated, then thermal paste helps to cool it down. Thermal paste is also known as thermal grease, Heat sink compound, Heat paste, Thermal Gel, Thermal compound, Heat sink paste, Thermal interface material or thermal paste.

Types of Thermal Paste

There are two types of thermal paste: Non-conductive and Conductive.

  • The non-conductive thermal paste includes silicon and zinc oxide thermal greases, while the conductive types include silver, copper and aluminum-based greases.
  • The latter is far better than the non-conductive types but must be used very carefully and cautiously.
  • Non-conductive thermal pastes are bound to cause electrical shorts or lead to short circuit if applied to the microprocessor’s pins or the electrical pathways on the circuit board.

Another Classification of Thermal Paste

There are three classifications of a thermal paste:

1) Metal based

2) Ceramic based

3) Silicon based

Metal based thermal paste is the most common and popular type. The reason behind the same is the performance as compared to the other two categories. These metal-based thermal pastes contain lots of small particles in the grease that has a higher thermal conductivity. The only major disadvantage of it is that it can cause electrical shorts in the form of short circuits as they are electrically conductive. This is the at most serious problems they pose and need to be countered by the user accordingly.

The ceramic-based thermal paste is also a popular choice but not as good as the metal based. The difference in terms of performance between the two is not much, but still, they do not perform quite similar. Unlike the metal based thermal paste, these contain lots of little ceramic particles, which are generally thermally conductive. And hence they do not conduct electricity which is the major advantage of this type, the user can use them without any kinds of inhibitions.

Last but not the least; silicon-based thermal paste is similar to the thermal pads that come on stock heatsinks are made of. Though performance wise they do well but are nowhere near to the other two categories. They generally come with the cooling kits.

In a nutshell

The thermal paste and grease are the same thing and do not make any kinds of difference. Both these terms are used interchangeably and substituted for one another. This is because the distinct brands and various types are different in composition, effectiveness, and the kinds of results it produces. Otherwise, they are very much the same. Lastly, apply thermal paste properly; or else, your device may result in short circuits.