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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I'm really curious why all copper coolers disappeared from personal computing. I remember that it was first introduced in aftermarket coolers in early 2000s and was much better than aluminum. It looked like it was just the normal evolution of cooling, but after peaking in late 2000s it never came back. And the best cooler was Thermalright True Copper single tower cooler. It seems really odd that copper disappeared as it would be very useful in high end air coolers, small form factor coolers and graphics cards (pretty much all cards in 2004 had full copper heatsinks).

So far I have seen such reasons mentioned against full copper cooling:
Price - people say that copper is more expensive than aluminum. That's true, but it wasn't all that much more expensive. And even if copper truly was so expensive, there's still a niche for money no object enthusiasts that want the best cooler and tiny PC crowd that want the best performance in small form factor, so I don't think that it would be so problematic due to price alone. I mean come on, people bought Arctic Silver thermal paste with some silver shavings for slight performance improvement and silver probably costs a lot more than copper and yet that paste wasn't exceptionally expensive (nor performed all that exceptionally).
Weight - a full tower copper cooler can weight over 1.5kg, which is NH-D15 category. That's a lot and some people mentioned that it would hurt motherboards. So far NH-D15 or similar dual tower coolers haven't really caused damage to them and this potential issue was mostly been negated with custom cooler backplates.
Heatpipes - when copper coolers appeared on market, most coolers were just aluminum extruded blocks or copper extruded blocks, there were towers and copper had big advantage. Once heatpipes appeared on market, advantage of all copper cooler has been diminished as heatpiped aluminum performed really well. Still, if you have ever touched aluminum heatsink, you can still clearly tell that aluminum close to heatpipes is hotter than further from heatpipes. And I know it's probably a personal issue, but I had a heatpiped aluminum cooler fall apart. Plates just weren't holding to heatpipes anymore. Cooler: Scythe Andy Samurai Master
Looks - Today almost all air coolers have heatpipes covered in nickel (I'm not sure if that's not hurting cooling performance), CPU IHS is made from copper, but is covered by some metal too. Some coolers are now coated in black or white paint completely. People are anal about RBG and windowed cases. It's easy to see how plain copper is just behind the times and probably not good for marketing (except for Noctua, because they still make brown fans but even them don't have bare cooper anymore). But anyway I think that copper looks really cool and way better than aluminum or nickeled aluminum. Seriously these are so cool:








So what were the real reasons why all copper cooling died, I'm curious to know.
 

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Copper (full heatsink) doesn't really offer much more than aluminum with copper base.

Yes, copper heat plate bases, or nickel plated copper is important (and required if you want to use Galinstan / LM), because copper transfers heat better.
The problem with copper is that it is a good TRANSFERER of heat. It's a poor RELEASER of heat.
Aluminum releases heat better. That's the problem. So if you have a copper heatsink block/cold plate and an aluminum fin stack, you get the benefits of both copper and aluminum.
Using a full copper heatsink vs mixed would do nothing except greatly add to weight and you would need to deal with dissipating the heat from the radiator/fin stack.
 

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So what were the real reasons why all copper cooling died, I'm curious to know.
It is really expensive and heavy and it is not much better. I think that is it.

Depending on how long ago you are comparing copper has also gotten more expensive, but I think the real reason is more about weight and cost to benefit ratio. Using the weight budget for more aluminum fins is always better for cooling performance and larger heatsinks are more common and better supported now.
 

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The problem with copper is that it is a good TRANSFERER of heat. It's a poor RELEASER of heat.
Aluminum releases heat better. That's the problem.
Do you have information regarding this? I would assume since copper has a higher thermal conductivity, it would allow for greater transfer of heat from hot to cold. Releasing / transferring sounds like a synonym to describe the same action. Heat moving from one direction to another.

If we were talking about thermal mass, technically speaking copper is more dense than aluminum. Generally, items with higher mass / density have lower conductivity. Take for example a clay brick on a house. If it was exposed to the sun all day, it will slowly transfer (radiate / conduct) heat many hours after the sun has set.

I only can assume by your post you're saying that copper has a higher thermal mass. However, it's also way more conductive. So I don't think your post is true (no offense).

I believe the answer is more simple. Cost. Not only materials but fabrication from all aspects of manufacturing. Including the soldering of the heat pipes to the fin array. I assume copper is more difficult to work with than aluminum. Someone with a more mechanical background can confirm.

As well, weight also impacts cost (shipping).
 

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Raw copper also starts to look gnarly after a few years. I would assume that corrosion / oxidation resistance is the main reason for nickel plating.
 
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Do you have information regarding this? I would assume since copper has a higher thermal conductivity, it would allow for greater transfer of heat from hot to cold. Releasing / transferring sounds like a synonym to describe the same action. Heat moving from one direction to another.

If we were talking about thermal mass, technically speaking copper is more dense than aluminum. Generally, items with higher mass / density have lower conductivity. Take for example a clay brick on a house. If it was exposed to the sun all day, it will slowly transfer (radiate / conduct) heat many hours after the sun has set.

I only can assume by your post you're saying that copper has a higher thermal mass. However, it's also way more conductive. So I don't think your post is true (no offense).

I believe the answer is more simple. Cost. Not only materials but fabrication from all aspects of manufacturing. Including the soldering of the heat pipes to the fin array. I assume copper is more difficult to work with than aluminum. Someone with a more mechanical background can confirm.

As well, weight also impacts cost (shipping).
"aluminum is better at dissipating heat" has been a parroted myth for a long time in the PC realm, lol.

thread from 2004: Water Cooling Myths - Pro/Forums

Myth: Aluminum absorbs/dissipates heat faster than copper
Reality: All thermal properties of copper are better than aluminum. The only advantage to aluminum is that is lighter. So, if one were given a pound of copper and a pound of aluminum, you could make a better performing heatsink with the aluminum. However, this is not directly applicable to watercooling, as weight is very rarely a factor.
 

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...I built a rigid copper piped system in early 2019 (mind you coated, along with brass and copper/nickel components), and all my rads in every custom system are either copper and/or brass, even in my latest build just finished. That said, as @T.Sharp underscored, pure un-coated copper easily reacts with its environment (think 'green church tower roofs'), and brass (= copper, zinc) and copper nickel-coating has other advantages.

...And per @Slaughtahouse 's comment, pricing also plays a big role...here is a quick view of the 45yr history of the copper price:

2488291
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Copper (full heatsink) doesn't really offer much more than aluminum with copper base.

Yes, copper heat plate bases, or nickel plated copper is important (and required if you want to use Galinstan / LM), because copper transfers heat better.
The problem with copper is that it is a good TRANSFERER of heat. It's a poor RELEASER of heat.
Aluminum releases heat better. That's the problem. So if you have a copper heatsink block/cold plate and an aluminum fin stack, you get the benefits of both copper and aluminum.
Using a full copper heatsink vs mixed would do nothing except greatly add to weight and you would need to deal with dissipating the heat from the radiator/fin stack.
I'm really not sure if it's a big problem. I think that copper's ability to transfer heat is much higher than its inability to release it. The ratio of heat transfer and heat dissipation is what matters the most. According to this source:

Thermal conductivity of them is:
Aluminum - 237 W/mK
Copper - 413 W/mK

So if weight is defining factor of heat release then let's look at density of metals (Density of Metals, All Common Metal Density Chart & Table PDF):
Aluminum - 2.7 kg/m3
Copper - 8.93 kg/m3

So if we divide thermal conductivity by density (please ignore the units), we get:
Aluminum 237/2.7 = 87.(7)
Copper 413/8.93 = 46.25

So we sort of get thermal conductivity per density unit, which probably translates to W/mK per m3, which is much worse for copper. But copper heatsinks are usually not times heavier than aluminum copper ones, but only 50% heavier. So copper still works better then.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
It is really expensive and heavy and it is not much better. I think that is it.

Depending on how long ago you are comparing copper has also gotten more expensive, but I think the real reason is more about weight and cost to benefit ratio. Using the weight budget for more aluminum fins is always better for cooling performance and larger heatsinks are more common and better supported now.
AIOs are are expensive and make no real financial or cooling sense, but they sell well. Pretty much every AIO is matched or beaten by dual tower air cooler with better acoustics to boot. As high end solution big air cooler made from copper could make sense. And SFF crowd is already being price gouged for mediocre performance, so at least they could get some actually better cooling performance.


Wraith Spire pretty much beats Scythe Shuriken 2 cooler and SFF dude says that Scythe is good.
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Raw copper also starts to look gnarly after a few years. I would assume that corrosion / oxidation resistance is the main reason for nickel plating.
I have Radeon X800 Pro and X800 XT PE from 2004 and they both haven't discoloured (although the are some random stains). I also have Scythe Mugen 4 PCGH from 2015 and no discolouration. I have only once saw discolouration of copper and that was with Chinese RAM heatsinks, which are made from copper. My fingerprints are now darker spots on it forever as it is so hard to clean for some reason. I think that most manufacturers already know ways how to prevent nasty discolouration of copper and it's not a rocket science. Meanwhile, nickel doesn't seem like a good solution to me as it is 4 times worse heat conductor than copper and in theory, it should harm heat transfer from heatpipes. It doesn't look nice either, it's basically like fake chrome on cars.
 

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Weight - a full tower copper cooler can weight over 1.5kg, which is NH-D15 category. That's a lot and some people mentioned that it would hurt motherboards. So far NH-D15 or similar dual tower coolers haven't really caused damage to them and this potential issue was mostly been negated with custom cooler backplates.
The weight is fine if the board is placed horizontally vs vertically.
 

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I have Radeon X800 Pro and X800 XT PE from 2004 and they both haven't discoloured (although the are some random stains). I also have Scythe Mugen 4 PCGH from 2015 and no discolouration. I have only once saw discolouration of copper and that was with Chinese RAM heatsinks, which are made from copper. My fingerprints are now darker spots on it forever as it is so hard to clean for some reason. I think that most manufacturers already know ways how to prevent nasty discolouration of copper and it's not a rocket science. Meanwhile, nickel doesn't seem like a good solution to me as it is 4 times worse heat conductor than copper and in theory, it should harm heat transfer from heatpipes. It doesn't look nice either, it's basically like fake chrome on cars.
If it doesn't oxidize, I would guess they use some kind of coating.

A few microns of nickel plating is not going to have any measurable effect on CPU temp.
 

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AIOs are are expensive and make no real financial or cooling sense, but they sell well. Pretty much every AIO is matched or beaten by dual tower air cooler with better acoustics to boot. As high end solution big air cooler made from copper could make sense. And SFF crowd is already being price gouged for mediocre performance, so at least they could get some actually better cooling performance.
Yes, repeat the same thing that GN, Linus and all the others have said repeatedly... except getting it wrong on the most important parts. xD (I kid! Yay dry humor!)

AIOs typically do worse, yes, but handle heat "spikes" far better due to the nature of the loop. Water can soak up more heat so it acts like a heatbank rather than just a heatsink, letting you accumulate more while it slowly builds up to maximum. At that point it's more a matter of how thick the radiator is and how powerful the pump is.

I'll take a 120mm rad AIO over a tower cooler any day of the week.
 

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Im not sure why it did either, some things you can still find. I love copper in a PC. But now I have everything watered. Another thing that disappeared are white PCBs and components. Everything went RGBLGBTQ (lol) and I cant wait for the RGB part to go away. Just offer everything all the time and nothings out of style.
 

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Discussion Starter · #18 · (Edited)
Yes, repeat the same thing that GN, Linus and all the others have said repeatedly... except getting it wrong on the most important parts. xD (I kid! Yay dry humor!)

AIOs typically do worse, yes, but handle heat "spikes" far better due to the nature of the loop. Water can soak up more heat so it acts like a heatbank rather than just a heatsink, letting you accumulate more while it slowly builds up to maximum. At that point it's more a matter of how thick the radiator is and how powerful the pump is.

I'll take a 120mm rad AIO over a tower cooler any day of the week.
And in what conditions your CPU would be spiking in heat often? That sure doesn't happen in long continuous loads with correctly working chip. And Linus is like the biggest defender of AIOs. He said many times that AIO is better than air cooler and was chocked when NH-D15 beat AIOs in one of his "investigation" videos. He's one of the most influential people suggesting that AIOs are better high performance cooling solution. But aside from that, many smaller heatsink reviewers have already concluded that big air is better than big AIO. And that 120mm AIO is pretty much as good as simple single tower cooler like 212 Evo.

And why do most AIOs suck? Because there's no reason for them to not to. Heatsinks with heatpipes are already working a lot like AIOs, in heatpipes there's a small amount of water (or other liquid) that is transferring heat inside of it. But because there's not much liquid it doesn't take ages for it to heat up. AIOs have much more water and it takes longer to heat it up, therefore you have typical AIO lag. In terms of cooling capacity, both coolers use aluminum fins and their surface area is similar. 120mm AIOs typically have similar surface area to 120mm simple air cooled tower cooler and same applies to 240mm AIO and dual tower cooler. Performance of them is the same, but AIO is more complex and much less reliable/durable and will always perform worse in acoustics (because you need pump). AIO is nothing, but Same tower cooler, but more complicated and in different form factor. If you made custom air cooler and mounted it like AIO and connected heatpipes to CPU, you would get AIO, but without pump. And no 120mm AIO can compete with beefy air cooler, you simply don't get the same surface area.

And once you realize that 240mm AIO priced at 150 Euros is no better than Scythe Ninja 5 at 60 Euros, or even lower priced Alpenfohn Olymp, then all the rage for AIOs ends. They are no better at cooling, they are louder, they have a risk of leaking and they don't have the same durability. The only good water cooling is custom loop, where you can actually use bigger radiator. AIOs are nothing but expensive toys for youtubers.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
Im not sure why it did either, some things you can still find. I love copper in a PC. But now I have everything watered. Another thing that disappeared are white PCBs and components. Everything went RGBLGBTQ (lol) and I cant wait for the RGB part to go away. Just offer everything all the time and nothings out of style.
I remember when boards themselves were RGB:





And today everything is either black or white. Boring.
 

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I remember when boards themselves were RGB:





And today everything is either black or white. Boring.
I remember that. I built my first PC in 2004. It was like the 70s/80s color schemes then. I like the copper, chrome, white, and black things now. my leds can supply the blue, purple, and orange that it needs for colors. You can still buy the connectors in crazy colors if you want to do all the work to install them. The PC world has grown up, things arent as wacky anymore. Now everything awesome and or new is $5k because adults are building them now, kids are playing on tablets! yawn
 
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