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Thread: Liquid Metal Thermal Paste

  1. #1
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    Liquid Metal Thermal Paste Final Update

    Liquid Metal Thermal Paste

    Hey guys, after seeing a new Liquid Metal Thermal Paste on ebay I decided to give it a go as it made claims to beat every other Paste on the market. The paste is a Gallium Indium alloy with traces of precious metals (probably as anti-corrosion additive), pretty similiar to what is used in the Sapphire Blizzard Cooling GPU System.

    User reviews I've seen gave mixed results, so I want to make a usefull review. Some people complained about corrosion on aluminum coolers and a 1 or 2 even on copper coolers. The majority however doesn't seem to have any problems and report noticeable temperature drops. The user instruction explicitly discourages from using it on aluminum coolers and state it should only be used on copper coolers, look at attached pics as to why. Since it is Metal, it is highly conductive and needs to be applied with great care, as it is also liquid any overdosage might result in metal drops being squized out at cooler installtion and shorting out circuits.

    So my plan for the next few weeks is to test it on IHS, lapped IHS and directly on die and see how it compares to everybody's favorite AS 5 on installation and after 2-3 weeks to glimpse at the long term performance and corrosive qualities.

    A little demonstration on Aluminum, making it crystal clear why it should be avoided with aluminum coolers. It will not even spread evenly as the aluminum corrodes in seconds.

    Aluminum foil and Coollaboratoy liquid metal.
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/metaltim1.jpg

    Small grain sized drop of liquid metal.
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/metaltim2.jpg

    10 Seconds after spreading it on the foil, already dark corrosion areas present.
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/metaltim3.jpg

    This is what happened when I tried to spread it more evenly
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/metaltim4.jpg

    After seeing what happens to aluminum foil, i will use an old and expendable Athlon XP for the on die phase of the test, the protective layers on the die should, well protect it I guess :P, but any corrosion might impair future installations. If you have any suggestions as to the testing procedure or general comments, go ahead.


    Update:

    I experienced a little setback, involving a cat, pee and my testsystem. Obviously the Gallium had a aggravating effect on the poor little kitten and after first scratching the rig, decided to mark it's new hunting ground. I was only taking care of the cat during the summer vacation of a friend, she is gone now, but left me with lots of scratched furniture and bad smelling carpet. Guess that's why I consider myself a dog person.

    Anyway, my hardware scrapyard still had a MSI K8N Neo2 Platinum within and a poor overclocking Venice CPU (removed IHS, 2590 MHz max) with my spare TT Big Typhoon, so I reset the long term Test.

    The little data I collected on the old System (Asus A7V880, Athlon Xp3200+ @ 2420 MHz, 1,85 Vcore, Thermalright SLK-800U) and the initial results of the New Platform after 4 Hours of Prime large FFTs :

    Athlon XP, AS5 on installation Idle Delta T Idle 7 Kelvin, Delta T Load 18 Kelvin
    Athlon XP, AS5 after a few Days Delta T Idle 6 Kelvin, Delta T Load 16 Kelvin (second test done before this long term test)

    Athlon XP, Gallium on installation Delta T Idle 5 Kelvin, Delta T Load 13 Kelvin
    Athlon XP, Gallium a few Days Delta T Idle 5 Kelvin, Delta T Load 13 Kelvin

    Venice, AS5 on installation Delta T Idle 3K, Delta T Load 15 Kelvin
    Venice, Gallium Alloy in installation Delta T Idle 2K, Delta T Load 12 Kelvin


    Installation of the Gallium needs more care than AS5, the amount of Gallium needed is very small, excessive amounts will be squized out during installation, and considering it's conductive nature, you don't want any droplets building next to the CPU die. A very thin silvery coat is all that is needed, I reinstalled the Heatsink several times to check if the quantitiy was right, I need 2 tries to find the right amount.

    I also have a few control copper plates to examine after the test is done. Some have a layer of Gallium, some AS5 and some straight copper, all stored in a sealed container. 7 Days into the test, I checked one of the Copper/Gallium plates for signs of corrossion. The surface still had the silvery mirror appearance of the Gallium. After cleaning off the Gallium with a cloth and isopropyl alcohol, the surface had no signs of corrosion.

    My non final conclusion is that this stuff actually works, and the long term effects don't seem to be as bad as I first imagined (7 Days is way too short for a final assessment). Of course it still very much is only for extreme enthusiasts, and the application process needs to be done very carefully. But for water and aircoolers (with copper contact surfaces) looking for every single K improvement, it might be worth checking out. The limited temperature range makes it unsuited for chilled liquid and phase change users though. Next update in a week.


    Final Update:

    After 3 weeks on the second test platform it is time for the final results.

    I am impressed by the effectiveness of the liquid metal. It consistently outperformed AS5 by a minimum of 3 K under load on the Venice platform. On the Atlhon XP the results were even better, I assume this is due to the bigger surface area. I might test it with a IHS CPU one day, but the nature of this material makes it an enthusiast only choice imho, many of which remove the IHS. The performance did not degrade or enhance over the period of 3 weeks, which indicates despite it's liquid nature it will stay in place over long period of time even in vertical position..

    There are some bad news however. While checking the heatsink and control surface after cleaning, I did notice some hard to remove traces of the liquid metal. After trying to clean them of with isopropyl alcohol, aceton and even nitro paint thinner the traces remained. It seems some of the Gallium/indium bonds with the copper or its' impurities permanently. The only way I was able to remove it, was by lapping the surfaces. The CPU die also has several traces of the liquid metal, I don't know if these are the result of my mounting methods or a bonding effect with the protective layers of the CPU die, the uneven distribution lets me think it's the former. The consistency of the temperature measurements suggest that these traces do not affect performance greatly. My limited metallurgy knowledge lets me speculate this "cold alloying" only creates a thin outer layer that stops the process from continuing further into the material (if you had any metallurgic education, please share your knowledge).


    CPU after 3 weeks, Liquid metal still with silvery appearance
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/lmfinal1.JPG

    Cleaned CPU, traces of liquid metal circled
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/lmfinal2.JPG
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/lmfinal3.jpg

    Control surface with thick layer of liquid metal
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/lmfinal4.jpg

    Cleaned control surface with bonded liquid metal
    http://www.honigtopf.mynetcologne.de/lmfinal5.jpg

    So what's the verdict? It's conductive, doesn't like every material, is harder to install (you most certainly don't want too much) and leaves traces after a while, but on the other hand it beats other thermal interface materials hands down. Reminds me of of nitrous oxide, a nice performance boost, but if you are not careful it will blow your engine up.

    Personally, I will se it for benching new components, but for everyday use stick to my acrtic ceramique.
    Last edited by Fairydust; 09-22-2005 at 02:29 AM.

  2. #2
    Registered User Ugly n Grey's Avatar
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    I read up on it and gave it a pass, thermal paste should be entirely non conductive, period in my my opinion. I'll stick with AS.
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    I agree with you and will only use it to conduct a test, but hey this is xtreme systems and some people would use uranium 235 if it would keep their CPU any cooler. The conductivity is not my major concern though after all we run serious amounts of water though our PCs , long term corrosion would be a much bigger problem imho.

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    What is it made of? A T1000 ?

  5. #5
    SLC One_Hertz's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fairydust
    I agree with you and will only use it to conduct a test, but hey this is xtreme systems and some people would use uranium 235 if it would keep their CPU any cooler.
    Will it?

    Regardless wether it is conductive or not u still shouldnt put any on your components... Agree with fairydust corrosion would be a bigger problem.

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    Xtreme Mentor situman's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ugly n Grey
    I read up on it and gave it a pass, thermal paste should be entirely non conductive, period in my my opinion. I'll stick with AS.
    Only AS Ceramique is non conductive.
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    Registered User BGP Spook's Avatar
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    AS5 is fundamentally nonconductive. But it is slightly capacitive, so it will interfere with a circuit it contacts.

    Someone on another forum I frequent got some in some on his memory (custome watercooling his memory) and the memory stopped working. After he took them into the bath with him and scrubbed them down with a soft bristle brush and air dried them they worked again.
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    I'll stick with AS5 and Ceramique. I have yet to see more than 1 degree difference between these two on bare cores with heatsink lapped to 2000 grit, or on IHS cores with heatspreader and heatsink lapped. I usually use Ceramique as you can get a 22g tube for $7

    On contact surfaces that aren't as smooth (unlapped) AS5 pulls ahead slightly, but Ceramique does better on well lapped contact surfaces because it has smaller particles.

  9. #9
    Xtreme Cruncher skycrane's Avatar
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    when you tried to spread it out, did it compleatly eat through the aluminium foil???

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    AS5 is fundamentally nonconductive. But it is slightly capacitive, so it will interfere with a circuit it contacts.
    Capacitance is not really a property paste could have, particularly if its noncoductive. If you mean they'll be some compacitance between teh die and the heatsink, thats true of any paste, so don't worry about it.

  11. #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by skycrane
    when you tried to spread it out, did it compleatly eat through the aluminium foil???
    Yes it did. I think it reacted with the aluminum to form a alloy which oxidises extremely fast. The oxide is very brittle and fell apart when I tried to spread the Gallium/ Indium alloy.

  12. #12
    Xtreme Addict alpha0ne's Avatar
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    Hmm very interesting, I look foward to seeing your results

    When applied to aluminum does it give off any gases ??
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    Aint No Real Gangster WeStSiDePLaYa's Avatar
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    i wonder if this stuff is toxic at all? and what about clean up and disposal of it? i use ceramique, since its cheap, works great, not conductive at all. so i dont need to worry about shorts if it somehow works its way onto pcb.
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    @alpha0ne:
    I didn't see or smell any gas buildup at first, but since you asked i had to test for it. The simplest test i could devise, was to repeat the application under water. So i grabbed my scuba gear and headed down to to the north sea, finally there yours truly noticed he forgot to refill his cylinders, so back home I went.

    Arriving home I came up with a simpler approach, simply use a glass beaker, attach aluminum foil to the bottom and fill it with water. When I applied a drop of the gallium/indium to the foil, it would not spread at all. I think the lack of oxygen preventened the gallium from building a layer of gallium oxide, which is the sticky stuff that enables the initial adhesion to the surface. Instead it kept it's mirror finish in drop form and would simply roll around the foil.

    In phase two i tried applying the drop of gallium/indium in ambient air to a wet piece aluminum foil. The application took longer than in dry conditions, I noticed some water turning grey, which I think is the gallium oxide dissolving in the water and not sticking to the gallium and foil. After 1-2 minutes a grey layer formed on top of the aluminum , shortly after that bubbles appeared in the water layer. After about a minute of bubbling away, I was left with these
    fluffy gray remains, 2

    I am more a physics person than chemistry, so I will not try to explain it and screw up badly.

    @ WeStSiDePLaYa: It is non toxic, both indium and gallium in metal form are non toxic, I am not 100% certain what additives are added, but they are all in metal form and very few metals are toxic, all of which would have no use in this alloy. Edit: It appears there are some studies suggesting indium has very low toxicity levels in Swiss mice. So it's safe to say we shouldn't use it as a food supplement in large qunatities. But for normal usage, I havn't seen any reports about toxicity
    Last edited by Fairydust; 08-29-2005 at 11:08 PM.

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    Xtreme Enthusiast fareastgq's Avatar
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    that stuff may be better inside pipes that contain no O2.
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    Xtreme Enthusiast chinkgai's Avatar
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    rofl, u were gona do it in the sea...which woulda added salt to the equation

    anyways...how much did you pay for it and how much did you get?

    also...when are we gettin results??? thanks!

  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by chinkgai
    anyways...how much did you pay for it and how much did you get?
    It's about $8.50 (€6.90) for 1.5 Gram.
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    The on die test started on Monday, i decided on 3 weeks duration. I choose the ondie first because there is less variables than with the IHS versions, so the temperature measurements should be more accurate.

    Price is 6,90 € for roughly 1 gramm. You only need extremely small quantities for installation, so this wil definitely be enough for several installations.

  19. #19
    Registered User BGP Spook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by saratoga
    Capacitance is not really a property paste could have, particularly if its noncoductive. If you mean they'll be some compacitance between teh die and the heatsink, thats true of any paste, so don't worry about it.
    [offtopic]
    Sorry for OT:
    AS5
    If you follow the link and look under the heading "Not Electrically Conductive:"
    You will find this:
    Arctic Silver 5 was formulated to conduct heat, not electricity.
    (While much safer than electrically conductive silver and copper greases, Arctic Silver 5 should be kept away from electrical traces, pins, and leads. While it is not electrically conductive, the compound is very slightly capacitive and could potentially cause problems if it bridges two close-proximity electrical paths.)
    Quoted from the Arcticsilver website.
    [/offtopic]

    I wonder what that gray fluffy stuff is.
    Last edited by BGP Spook; 08-30-2005 at 04:39 AM.
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by BGP Spook
    I wonder what that gray fluffy stuff is.
    Should be the oxyde fluffed up by the gas buildup.

  21. #21
    Registered User Ugly n Grey's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by situman
    Only AS Ceramique is non conductive.
    put a line of AS down on a piece of paper and then try and pass a current through it...
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    Xtreme Enthusiast moonlightcheese's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BGP Spook
    [offtopic]
    Sorry for OT:
    AS5
    If you follow the link and look under the heading "Not Electrically Conductive:"
    You will find this:

    Quoted from the Arcticsilver website.
    [/offtopic]

    I wonder what that gray fluffy stuff is.
    capacitative meaning it will hold a charge and release it at a slow rate. AS5 on VCC lines won't do anything, but spread across, say, memory bus leads, will cause data corruption. anything can have a capacitive property. batteries are basically capacitors that release a certain voltage and wattage. they are filled with alkaline metals and acids. AS5 has a similar consistency so it's ability to hold charge is not surprising.
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    Xtreme Gentoo User masterofpuppets's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by BGP Spook
    AS5 is fundamentally nonconductive. But it is slightly capacitive, so it will interfere with a circuit it contacts.

    Someone on another forum I frequent got some in some on his memory (custome watercooling his memory) and the memory stopped working. After he took them into the bath with him and scrubbed them down with a soft bristle brush and air dried them they worked again.
    He took his RAM in the bath?

  24. #24
    Registered User BGP Spook's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by masterofpuppets
    He took his RAM in the bath?

    Well it worked! The memory started working again. So no or why not instead.

    I wish I could find the thread but it appears to have "fallen" off the other forum so...
    Last edited by BGP Spook; 08-30-2005 at 06:21 AM. Reason: stupid "," instead of a "."
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  25. #25
    Xtreme X.I.P. MaxxxRacer's Avatar
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    this stuff is pretty freaky.. but i will stick with as5 and lumiere...

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