DIY Heatsink for Small Transistors




About: Go sit in the Faraday cage and think about what you've done...

Here's a little mini-instructable:

Want to squeeze a bit more current through those inexpensive TO-92 package transistors? Then add a small metal heatsink.

I made this for a PWM DC motor driver, as some 2N2222 bi-polar transistors were handy. It worked OK, but the 2N2222 was getting very hot (too hot to touch.)

This will work with any TO-92 device--but the device must have a flat part to contact the sink (as TO-92 cases do.)

It's not entirely crazy; commercial heatsinks are available for this package. And the 2N2222 specs include two power dissipation ratings, Tamb <= 25 C (500-800mW) and Tcase <= 25 C (1.2-1.8 mW) (being ambient air temperature and case temperature.) Keep the case at 25 C or below, and the current rating more than doubles.

Step 1: You'll Need...


-- Heatsink material: copper, aluminum or other sheet metal
-- Heat shrink tubing
-- Thermal paste compound (for CPU heatsinks)


-- A nibbler (or tin snips)
-- Files and sandpaper

Step 2: Cut Out the Heatsink

The nibbler tool is a great way to cut shapes from any sheet metal material, even steel.

The heatsink should be large enough to soak up excess heat, but can be almost any shape. However, it must have a "tab," slightly wider and taller than the transistor.

It can contain a hole for attaching to a circuit board, if that's desired.

Step 3: Fine-tune the Shape

In order that it doesn't fall right off, the heatsink should be shaped by adding a few notches or a narrower "throat" at the top of the tab.

This prevents the "tab" from sliding out of the heat shrink tubing, and off the transistor.

Note: to be honest, tapering the "throat" at the top of the tab seems to work better....the drawing illustrates this alternate method (which I used on the prototype.)

Step 4: Press, File and Sand Until Flat

The heat sink must be flat. The best way to achieve this is not to deform the metal during the process.

However, my aluminum was a nabbed from an old camping plate, and the tin snips deformed it somewhat. So, in order to flatten it for good contact with the transistor, a few more steps:

-- Press it. I used the end of a file handle. But using a good vice, perhaps between two pieces of flat steel would work better.

-- File it. Where the material resisted, filing took out the high spots.

-- Sand it. After filing, a smoother surface is need for full contact.

Step 5: Assemble

-- First, cut a small piece of heat shrink tubing. It should be slightly longer than the tab.

-- Test fit all the parts.

-- Apply a small amount of the thermal paste to the transistor (flat side.)

-- Slip the heat shrink tubing over the metal tab, then carefully slide the transistor in, being sure the flat side contacts the heatsink.

-- Shrink the tubing to complete. A heat gun, electric stove or other heat source will do.

During initial use, the heat generated by the transistor will only shrink the assembly more, making a more solid unit.

Step 6: Use It!

Ok, now the transistor / heatsink is ready for use.

I've been running mine for hours at about 2.75 watts, which is about 65% over the wattage specs for a 2N2222. So far, so good.

Note: While this certainly helps, the TO-92 package wasn't designed for use with a heatsink, so you cannot get the type of efficiency as you would from an integrated sink.

Maybe the right thing to do was to use a TO-220 package transistor, but this was fun and a learning experience, too.



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    52 Discussions


    1 year ago

    Very helpful! I was wondering if there are and effective alternatives to thermal paste.

    1 reply

    2 years ago

    This instructable helped me. Thanks. I have to fix heat sink for my L293DNE ic.


    2 years ago

    65 percent above ratings, thats crazy man. Nice work.


    3 years ago

    That's a good idea! Too bad I don't use transistors...


    3 years ago

    I didnt use it in transistor , but it helped me a lot


    1 reply

    6 years ago on Introduction

    Great little instructable. This should keep my CNC controller from melting itself :)


    Reply 10 years ago on Introduction

    Just find an old computer, rip out the CPU heatsink and fan, and get some thermal paste. Apply the thermal paste to the transistor and stick the heatsink and fan assembly to that. From there, if you really want to, you could wire the fan up to some sort of power supply and that would solve your problem.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    How big of a transistor is that?? New cpu heatsinks are designed to dissipate a LOT of heat.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Those TO-3 packages are meant to be bolted to an aluminum heatsink, and those are pretty common. Thermal compound is a good idea here, too.

    Here's a link with a nice visual...


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    well, i salvaged a lotta devices wid heatsinks, and some use thermal mat or some sort. instead of thermal paste, that is used. It is like rubber, but not rubber


    Reply 9 years ago on Introduction

    Stupid question comes here, but I have to ask because I'm not sure. Is the casing of that transistor its base or something? Thanks for the answer.