Development of the capability of testing the accuracy of thermal CAD software for electronic circuit design

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The capability of measuring surface temperatures of hybrid circuits at the Virginia Tech Hybrid Microelectronics Laboratory has been established. This capability provides a quantitative method for effectively evaluating thermal design software.

Surface operating temperatures were measured and predicted for an operating hybrid circuit. The temperatures were measured using an infrared thermal imaging system, which measures surface temperatures by detecting the infrared radiation emitted and reflected. The accuracy of the measurements has been quantified for variations in surface emissivity, convective cooling condition, and operating temperature range.

The most accurate temperature measurement of a one-resistor circuit was compared to the operating temperature predicted by a lumped-parameter one-dimensional heat transfer analysis. The comparison agreed within the expected limits for this simple analysis and identified areas for possible improvement both of the model and the experimental technique.

Thermal design of a circuit is critical because excessive temperatures are a common cause of circuit failure. Circuit designers rely on computer programs to predict circuit component temperatures because of the high cost of prototype experimentation. Accurate thermal design software that is currently available is too complicated for occasional use by circuit designers. Simple, yet accurate, thermal design software is essential for this type of design, so that circuit layouts can be quickly and easily optimized.