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John O | June 2018

Imec unveils 3-D printed impingement cooling solution for high-powered chips

By Josh Perry, Editor


Imec, a Belgium-based research and development hub focused on nanoelectronics and digital technologies, recently demonstrated a novel and cost-effective impingement solution for cooling high-performance chips at the package level.


Imec demonstrates efficient cost-effective cooling solution for high performance chips. (Imec)


This new technique is intended to meet the ever-increasing power demands of modern, high-powered devices and systems.


According to the press release, “High performance electronic systems are coping with increasing cooling demands. Conventional solutions realize cooling through combining heat exchangers that are bonded to heat spreaders that are then attached to the chip backside. These are all interconnected with thermal interface materials (TIM) that create a fixed thermal resistance that can’t be overcome by introducing more efficient cooling solutions.”


Imec focused on creating a solution that would provide direct cooling to the back side of the chip with distributed coolant outlets that would spray the liquid perpendicular to the chip surface, which keeps the fluid temperature the same across the chip and reduces contact time between the coolant and chip.


To overcome cost issues, Imec researchers developed an impingement cooler from polymers instead of silicon. Also, to make sure the process works with chip packaging, the nozzles were created by high-resolution stereolithography 3-D printing at only 300 µm. 3-D printing gives designers the ability to create complex patterns and print the cooler in one part.


“Our new impingement chip cooler is actually a 3D printed ‘showerhead’ that sprays the cooling liquid directly onto the bare chip,” said Herman Oprins, senior engineer at Imec, in the press release. “3D prototyping has improved in resolution, making it available for realizing microfluidic systems such as our chip cooler. 3D printing enables an application-specific design, instead of using a standard design.”


This new cooler is highly efficient, allowing only an increase of less that 15°C per 100 W/cm2 with a coolant flow of 1 L/min. The design also reduce pressure drop and outperforms standard air cooling solutions, while needing a much smaller footprint.

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