Thermal Management of High Power in Small Spaces: Myths and Misconceptions Challenged

As power dissipation of electronics increases and target volumes decrease, previous rules of thumb involving system level thermal management and cooling need to be rethought to ensure that a packaging solution meets the overall application functional and environmental requirements.  When today's decision makers were entering the electronic packaging industry, certain rules of thumb were useful.  Today, they are outdated misconceptions and myths. The capability of the electronics, packaging density and power dissipation are much greater today, so previous rules of thumb no longer apply. Five common misconceptions are that: (1) Natural Convection is always available to be used; (2) Thermal performance is only an issue for the chassis design; (3) Power is the only board information that is required for chassis design; (4) Heatsink and Thermal Interface Materials (TIM’s) can solve any thermal problem. (5) Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) is sometimes thought of as only being colored pictures but it can be a valuable tool for thermal management. In this white paper, the source of these myths and misconceptions is discussed.  The reevaluation of these views provides a path to understand today’s thermal management challenges and how to ensure that they are addressed up-front in product planning.

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