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Good designs don't feel the heat

Thermal analysis tools continue to develop while materials improve a little, but the laws of physics remain the same. By Tom Shelley.

Engineers are continually tasked with dissipating more heat within smaller spaces and while there are three basic approaches to thermal management, software is also playing a part.
Some improvements have been made in conducting heat away from active components in the design of power devices, thanks to making the silicon die thinner. This reduces the thickness of insulating silicon between the active parts and the heat sink.

An increasingly wide range of silicone based products for thermal management provide conduction paths to the exterior parts of laptop computers and mobile phones, or to metal heat sinks. Commercially available products include thermally conductive insulator pads, adhesive tapes, gap filling sheets and cure-in-place compounds.

The ultimate material for thermal conduction within electronics is undoubtedly synthetic diamond, which is normally a first class insulator with four times the thermal conductivity of copper.

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Graham Pitcher

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