Semiconductor and Data Center Cooling

1. Adaptive Thermoelectric Energy-Harvesting/Heat-Transfer in Semiconductor Cooling System Hierarchies

Most thermoelectric materials are capable of transferring heat across the thermoelectric material when driven by an electrical current as well as generating an electrical current from a heat gradient imposed across the thermoelectric material. Historically the transport efficiency and conversion efficiency of these is quite low, limiting their use to special situations, but enough viable applications exist for thermoelectric heat transfer and electricity generation that thermoelectric materials are widely used.

As material science and quantum effects continue to advance, the transport efficiency and conversion efficiency offered by new-generation thermoelectric materials has been increasing. As these efficiencies increase, increasingly compelling and valuable opportunities arise for NRI’s adaptive thermoelectric energy-harvesting/heat-transfer system for use throughout the semiconductor cooling system hierarchies of chips, boards, modules, cages, chassis, racks, IT rooms, IT floors, IT buildings, and IT campuses. With the vast amount of overall heat generation and energy consumption in cloud computing, server farms, and data centers, and within this the widely-fluctuating load-dependent (and even task- dependent) heat generation by specific chips, boards, modules, cages, chassis, racks, etc. from moment to moment, such adaptive thermoelectric energy-harvesting/heat-transfer systems become extremely attractive.

These two trends (increasing thermoelectric efficiencies, increasing widely-fluctuating heat generation) are rapidly converging, rapidly writing a compelling value proposition for NRI’s innovative semiconductor and data center cooling technologies for use in information technology and other heat-producing equipment. NRI’s innovative semiconductor and data center cooling technologies involving adaptive energy-harvesting/heat-transfer include:

    • Combining one or more thermoelectric devices (with usual capabilities of acting as a thermoelectric cooler and as a thermoelectric generator) with a control system and associated electronics that selectively configure the thermoelectric device in at least in a thermoelectric cooler operating mode and in a thermoelectric generation operating mode,
    • Implementations of the above for each of the chip, board, module, cage, chassis, rack, IT room, IT floor, IT building, and IT campus levels in the traditional data center cooling hierarchy,
    • Arrangements for incremental deployment of stand-alone and hierarchical adaptive cooling and energy harvesting arrangements, each of which can operate in isolation or be interconnected with additional subsystems in peer and hierarchical relationships,
    • Arrangements for the control system of each subsystem to operate in isolation and/or work together with the control system of one or more other associated subsystems interconnected in peer or hierarchical arrangements,
    • Provisions for individual and hierarchical control systems to comprise linear (additive) control, bilinear (additive and multiplicative) control, nonlinear control, and hysteresis,
    • Arrangements for individual subsystems to include a thermal interface configured so that two or more of the subsystems can be thermally interconnected by connecting their thermal interfaces.
    • Provisions for thermoelectric devices to additionally operate in temperature sensing modes,
    • Arrangements for communications among subsystems within adaptive cooling and energy harvesting arrangements.

For example, the thermoelectric device can incorporate proposed and emerging quantum-process and quantum-well materials for higher heat transfer and thermoelectric generation efficiencies.

2. Three-Dimensional Microdroplet Cooling Transport for Semiconductors And Circuit Boards

The text Adaptive Cooling of Integrated Circuits Using Digital Microfludics by P. Paik, K. Chakrabarty, and V. Pamula, published by Artech House, Inc., Norwood, Me., 2007, ISBN 978-1-59693-138-1 describes an innovative application of standard planar-topology micro-droplet transport to the thermal cooling semiconductor systems.

In many situations, however, it is far more desirable to employ a three-dimensional thermal-fluid transport system so as to more space-efficiently, cost-efficiently, thermally-efficiently, and/or system-synergistically transport heat among heat sources and heat sinks without undesired heat loss or without heating/cooling unnecessary or sensitive elements of a chip or circuit board. Such three-dimensional micro-droplet transport arrangements and capabilities with heat-transfer specifics are explained and covered in NRI patent US 9,441,308 and pending patent application US 15/260,801 in NRI’s Microfluidic and Lab-On-A-Chip Systems work.

NRI’s three-dimensional microdroplet cooling transport technologies can be used separately or can advantageously be readily combined with NRI’s adaptive energy-harvesting/heat-transfer technologies described above.

Issued Patents

TitlePatent NumberApplication NumberPriority DatesPDFText OnlyRelated Patents
Incremental deployment of stand-alone and hierarchical adaptive cooling and energy harvesting arrangements for information technology10,036,57915/243,54202/16/2011PDFText Semiconductor and Data Center Cooling
Hierarchical Multiple-Level Control of Adaptive Cooling and Energy Harvesting Arrangements for Information Technology9,605,88113/669,43602/16/2011PDFText Semiconductor and Data Center Cooling
Use of Energy Harvested by Adaptive Cooling and Energy Harvesting Arrangements for Information Technology9,423,16113/674,94502/16/2011PDFTextSemiconductor and Data Center Cooling

Pending Published Applications

TitlePublication NumberApplication NumberPriority DatesPublish DatePDFText OnlyRelated Patents
Flexible modular hierarchical adaptively controlled electronic-system cooling and energy harvesting for IC chip packaging, printed circuit boards, subsystems, cages, racks, IT rooms, and data centers using quantum and classical thermoelectric materials2017/034325415/665,22011/05/2012PDFTextSemiconductor and Data Center Cooling

Heat Transfer Subsystem Interconnection Arrangements for Information Technology2013/019227013/678,51902/16/201108/01/13PDFTextSemiconductor and Data Center Cooling
Communications Among Subsystems in Adaptive Cooling and Energy Harvesting Arrangements for Information Technology2013/013371013/674,94802/16/201105/30/13PDFTextSemiconductor and Data Center Cooling

Pending Unpublished Applications

TitleApplication NumberPriority DatesRelated Patents