Scientists for the first time have applied super lattice-based thermoelectric thin-films on an active silicon microchip within an integrated electronics package.

The development is reported in the online edition of Nature Nanotechnology, which appeared Jan. 25.

In doing so, scientists from Intel, Arizona State University, Nextreme Thermal Solutions and RTI International empirically simulated the site-specific, on-demand cooling of heat fluxes over 1200 W/cm2 within an active, integrated circuit.

Researchers say this technology has the potential to overcome thermal management challenges associated with high-density integration of nanoscale transistors in today’s silicon chips and to keep Moore’s Law on track without being handicapped by thermal management issues.

This technology is particularly useful in thermal management of advanced microprocessors whose peak clock frequencies can be limited by thermal management issues. It also sets the stage for future integration of solid-state cooling for a broad range of electronic and photonic devices, including advanced chips for computation and communication to cooling of high-power lasers.

The chip-cooling technology was originally developed at RTI by a team led by Rama Venkatasubramanian, Ph.D., research director of RTI’s Center for Solid State Energetics. The early developments led to the creation of RTI spin-off, Nextreme Thermal Solutions.

Nextreme has now commercialized the technology using the copper pillar bumping process, an established electronic packaging approach that scales well into high-volume manufacturing. The company began production manufacturing of its OptoCooler product line in July 2008.

"This development is a great example of DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) research being applied toward solving a major technological challenge," Venkatasubramanian said. "This type of technology is one of the keys to addressing the thermal management issues associated with the increasing miniaturization of electronic devices across a broad spectrum of applications."

Venkatasubramanian said such compact, site-specific, on-demand cooling will become vital for electronics that are used in data centers in the future, where computational infrastructure, cooling cost and energy management all become equally important.

For more information, visit www.rti.org.