LORD Corporation

With more than 3,100 employees in 26 countries, 19 manufacturing facilities and 10 R&D centers worldwide, we're there for our customers.

Our Company
Learn about Parker’s safety-focused approach to COVID-19. Read More

The Importance of UL Certification for Thermal Management Materials

( 07/17/2019 ) Written by: Tammy Tian

Wherever electrical components are in use, regulations, and safety standards are vital to protect consumer safety. In the world of thermal management, UL certification is a critical standard to meet.

Electrical and electronic components are ubiquitous in automotive and transportation applications. Conventional internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicles contain ignition coils, engine control modules, transmission control modules, sensors, power supplies, transformers, and various other electronics.  Electric vehicles (EVs) contain batteries, onboard chargers, inverters and converters, and electric motors, all of which operate at high power densities (power per unit volume or weight).  At high power density, the generation of heat and the resulting high temperature of the component can become a limiting factor in device operation.  Thermal management materials provide a means to reduce the component temperatures, thereby improving the performance and extending the lifetime of the device. 

For example, EV batteries operate at high power density during charge and discharge cycles, so many battery manufacturers use thermal interface materials (TIMs) between the battery pack and the cooling plate to maximize heat transfer away from the batteries.  Parker LORD CoolTherm® liquid-dispensed gap fillers and adhesives are excellent TIMs because they displace air and fill in the gaps between the battery cell or module and the heat sink, providing maximum heat transfer upon curing to a solid.

EV on-board chargers also operate at high power density during fast charging, and the rate of charging is limited by temperature. Parker LORD CoolTherm® potting materials are low-viscosity liquid polymer systems that are poured over the electronics components to displace the air inside the electronic assembly and then cure to a thermally conductive solid that connects the hot electronic components to the heat sink.  These materials are used to dissipate heat from the inductors and transformers in onboard chargers to allow for rapid battery recharging.

While Parker LORD CoolTherm® gap fillers, adhesives, and potting materials improve the performance of high power density components, they must also meet important lifetime and safety standards required for any consumer electrical device.  All thermal management materials are therefore tested and certified under the relevant UL standards for electrical performance, heat and flame resistance, and temperature rating.

UL certification is a symbol of trust. UL labs have developed comprehensive tests to determine the mechanical, physical, and electrical characteristics of polymeric materials, ensuring that they are safe to use in electrical equipment. Several applicable UL standards govern the flammability requirements and other specific material behaviors of thermal management materials. After testing, a Performance Level Category (PLC) is assigned to the tested material.

UL 94: Tests for Flammability of Plastic Materials for Parts in Devices and Appliances

Tests for UL 94 involve applying a flame underneath a material sample. The material is observed to see if ignition occurs; if so, the time to ignition is measured in seconds. These results determine the UL rating.  Parker LORD thermal management materials meet the highest rating V0 for the vertical burning test.

UL 746A: Polymeric Materials – Short Term Property Evaluations

Among the short-term properties listed in UL 746A, hotwire ignition (HWI), high-ampere arc ignition (HAI), and comparative tracking index (CTI) are often requested by our customers.  HWI involves wrapping resistance wire around a material sample to dissipate applied electrical energy. If the specimen ignites, the time to ignition is measured in seconds. Categories range from 0 to 5 with 0 being the best performance at 120 seconds or longer. HAI measures the material’s resistance to ignition when exposed to arcing, with arcing episodes being applied during testing according to a standardized procedure. Again, 0 is the best performance rating, with 120 or more arc exposures without the ignition being required to achieve the high rating. CTI measures electrical breakdown, or tracking, of the material. Testing involves applying a large voltage to the material’s surface and assessing the amount of charcoal produced. A material enduring 600 volts or more will achieve the highest rating of 0.

UL 746B: Polymeric Materials – Long Term Property Evaluations

A key property governed by  UL 746B is the relative thermal index (RTI). Because UL 746B assesses long-term reliability, the material to be certified together with a benchmark material is subjected to aging at a few elevated temperatures. Then the mechanical and electrical properties are tested periodically during aging. The actual RTI rating will be assigned based on testing results.  A default RTI rating (measured in unit temperature) can be assigned without testing based on general benchmarks achieved through multi-year testing on materials with the same chemistry.

Conforming to UL standards is an important qualification for Parker LORD thermal management materials. The certification not only ensures optimal safety but long-term performance.


Tammy Tian

Tammy Tian is a Staff Applications Engineer for our Electronic Materials group, who's focus is on supporting customers. She is experienced in product development and technical support for microelectronics, as well as UL certifications and validation testing for LORD's materials. Prior to joining LORD in 2008, Tammy researched power electronic control at Mississippi State University. She also holds master's degrees in Solid State Physics and in Electrical & Computer Engineering.

Related Articles