There are many ways to accomplish liquid cooling, but the most common method is to have a plate with a flow path that moves liquid under the devices. After the heat is absorbed into the liquid, it is taken out of the plate and into the larger system. While water or water/glycol are the most common fluids used in liquid cooling, gasoline, oil, and refrigerant are other fluids that can be utilized.
There are lots of ways to construct a cold plate and the methods can be driven by the level of performance needed, the materials needed or the environmental requirements.
One construction method is to use a series of cross drilled holes in a plate. The holes intersect in the plate to determine the flow pattern and unneeded patterns are plugged. This construction method can be cost effective, but the pattern is limited to straight lines.
Another method is to embed a tube in a plate by machining a groove in the plate. The tube can either be placed toward the top surface of the plate to provide better cooling to devices mounted on that surface, or it can be embedded further into the plate so that it cools devices mounted on both sides of the plate. This option provides greater flexibility, but the thermal performance is limited because of the surface area of the tube perimeter.
Liquid cooling is a natural evolution beyond air cooling where either due to thermal requirements or footprint requirements, the desired performance can no longer be economically met by air cooling.