Introduction to IC Thermal Management and heat transfer

Mechanical Engineers tackle IC Thermal Management

Flames rise from the top of a CPU processor, the brains in every computer. Image suggests overworked / overloaded / maxed out technology.

Modern consumer and commercial computer platforms need to cope with many constraints in power efficiency and user experience while delivering the optimum performance and long-term reliability. One constraint that is currently challenged is the practice of system design for maximum steady-state power.  Depending on the type of workload, a well-designed platform allocates resources dynamically for the best user experience and power efficiency.  Semiconductor design, often the bailiwick of electricial engineers, involves complex thermal management and heat transfer problems, is often times better dealt with by mechanical engineers trained in such subjects.

Accurate thermal sensing is critical both for managing reliability factors in thermally constrained IC’s, and for enabling efficient use of thermal headroom to maximize performance in a power constrained infrastructure. As the critical dimensions continue to shrink, the analog sensor (typically a forward-biased p-n junction) performance continues to degrade. Calibration errors and long-term analog drift, as well as noise and electrical interference limit measurement accuracy.

Additionally, due to placement constraints, CMOS temperature sensors cannot always be optimally-located and often are not able to track hot-spot temperatures.

The industry needs to find methods to

–       make these measurements accurate,

–       make good estimates in locations where one cannot place a sensor,

–       make best use of this information.

There are multiple challenges in accomplishing these objectives that now perplex industry.

We have expertise in providing some of the answers to these problems within the traditional system or the system on chip, SoC .  We can help with developing efficient statistical methodology to combine thermal temperature and power  measurements in multiple locations to produce accurate estimates of overall temperature field in a chip.  We can also assist the system makers with making best decisions for system thermal management based on this information.

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