Trends in Thermal Management Materials for Electronic Circuits

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All electronic devices generate heat, and this heat must be dissipated to guarantee reliability and prevent untimely failures. However, the various materials used in electronic devices, such as polymers, ceramics and metals, all have different thermal expansion coefficients, and these differences can cause thermal management problems.

One of the biggest challenges facing the electronics industry is matching different material sets used to ensure the highest thermal conductivity, while keeping the thermal expansion of the various materials similar enough to prevent reliability issues. Keeping heat out of the electronic device, or removing the heat and cooling the device, is necessary for proper operation. Heat removal helps to eliminate mismatched thermal performance which can cause operational failure. 

Thermal management is an important component of electronic circuitry for a myriad of products, from power electronics used in electric and hybrid cars, to solar and wind energy equipment, to oil and gas downhole drilling applications, and high-powered LED devices. As an example, renewable electrical energy from solar and wind sources must be converted from direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC). To accomplish this, the solar and wind energy passes through a power conversion module. The circuitry must be able to handle the heat generated in the conversion process, and that is where thermal management techniques come into play.

Power devices contain a metallized substrate that carries the high current through the circuit with minimal losses. The substrate is not only an important component for the overall thermal performance of the electronic device, but must also provide minimal thermal resistance. This thermal substrate is also necessary for high mechanical and electrical reliability, and must be compatible with standard circuit manufacturing technologies to help with cost competitiveness.Read the full article here.Editor's Note: This article originally appeared in the June 2014 issue of SMT Magazine.


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