ICED: Intensified Cooling of Electronic Devices

Lead Research Organisation: Newcastle University
Department Name: Sch of Engineering


Advances in manufacturing technology are allowing the development of smaller, more powerful electronic components such as microprocessors and power modules. This has allowed and is continuing to drive innovation in a range of areas including high performance computing, artificial intelligence, robotics, electric vehicles, renewable energy generators, and communication devices. However, the increasing power density also leads to cooling problems, and the amount of heat per unit area which must be removed is rapidly increasing beyond the capabilities of existing cooling systems. Hence, there is an urgent need to develop next-generation cooling systems capable of cooling future electronic devices in order to prevent bottle-necking of their development. This is reflected in the market for heat sink manufacture, which is expected to grow to $15.4bn globally by 2024.

In this project we will develop "intensified" liquid-phase cooling systems: using dynamic flow and novel channel design to significantly enhance the maximum rate of heat removal. In collaboration with key industrial partners we will consider the use of advanced manufacturing technologies, including 3D printing, in order to develop heat sink geometries which are at the forefront of technological and manufacturing capability. This, in conjunction with the use of dynamic flow, will allow us to maximise heat removal rates without significant energy penalty. Further, we will test our technology on cutting edge power electronics circuits in order to provide validation of our design concepts and evidence of the near-to-market impact potential of the research.

The results of this research will allow effective cooling and the possibility of heat re-use from future, highly powered, electronic devices. This will enable future developments in small and micro electronics, allowing future innovation in the application areas listed above which are crucial in the drive for a greener, more productive and more resilient nation.

Planned Impact

This project will develop next generation high-flux cooling technologies capable of cooling future electronic components, including microprocessors and power electronics. This will enable future technological advancement, and as such will impact a wide range of stakeholders.

Society and Economy:
The market for high-flux electronics cooling is expected to reach $15.4bn globally by 2024. By developing next-generation cooling technologies in the UK, in collaboration with key industrial partners who serve a broad range of International clients, ICED can help to improve the UK-share of this market. This will positively impact on the high-tech, high-value job market in the UK.
The cooling solutions developed in ICED will enable future developments in high density microprocessors and power electronics, which will allow advancement in computing, AI, robotics, electric vehicles, and renewable energy generation. This will subsequently benefit a range of government targets and policies written for the advancement of society and the economy. For example, (1) The "Grand Challenge" of "Artificial Intelligence and Data"; (2) The "Grand Challenge" of "Clean Growth" and the targets of the Paris Agreement (2016); and (3) the "Grand Challenge" of "Future Mobility".
In addition, a key future target sector for ICED cooling technology is in Data Centre cooling. Data centres are a rapidly expanding market worldwide, and the sector is predicted to be worth $135bn in the UK alone by 2025. They are significant consumers of energy: around 1.5% of UK electricity is currently used in datacentres, accounting for over 2m tonnes of CO2 emissions. Cooling accounts for around 40% of this energy input, which is currently provided by refrigerated air loops, which offer no scope for energy recovery/reuse at a usable temperature. The on-chip, high-flux, water cooled solutions developed in ICED will allow high efficiency, high temperature, recovery of the heat, enabling re-use in district heating lines or in nearby commercial sites. The use of single-phase water cooling also simplifies the design of ancillary equipment and may negate the need for intermediate heat exchange loops. It will also allow cooling of the high-powered processors which are expected in the near-future. Therefore, there is significant potential for societal impact via a contribution towards a reduction in both energy poverty and CO2 emissions, which in turn may provide greater economic impact for data centre providers.

The primary aim of ICED is to provide a step-change in liquid-phase heat transfer rates by a novel combination of dynamic flow and creative channel design. The knowledge generated will be of broad interest to those working in the field of heat transfer, both to those specifically working in the area of high flux cooling (e.g. in the targeted application of electronic devices) and more widely (e.g. in compact heat exchangers for the process industries). The fluid dynamics/flow analysis performed via both CFD and flow visualisation studies will also be applicable in the areas of microfluidics and microreactors, as mixing and mass transfer are analogous to heat transfer. The near-market impact potential of the research/knowledge generated will be demonstrated by case-study testing, which should be of great interest to industrial stakeholders, including our project partners.

ICED will provide high-quality, multi-disciplinary, training for the research associate (PDRA). PDRA will work to deliver the technical objectives of an ambitious project which blurs the traditional engineering boundaries of chemical, mechanical and electrical engineering while also having the opportunity to collaborate with world-leading industrial collaborators. This will undoubtedly broaden their technical horizon. A PhD student will also have indirect involvement, seeking cross-discipline application of similar flow systems in microreactor and microfluidic technology.


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Description Friction-based heat sink manufacture 
Organisation TWI ltd
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Private 
PI Contribution Experimentally investigated the thermal/hydraulic performance of heat sink channels manufactured using a novel manufacturing process.
Collaborator Contribution TWI manufactured the heat sinks using their patented "Coreflow" process. This is a friction based processed. This is also highly relevant to my research (and ICED) and therefore the collaboration has been highly complimentary.
Impact Paper submitted to Applied Thermal Engineering (under review). Conference paper submitted to SEMI-THERM PID 16 (first author is Vito Di Pietro at TWI. This is funded by TWI).
Start Year 2021