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Heat is the enemy of circuit boards. Leaps in board density, driven by never-ending demand for bandwidth, make the problem worse. Minimizing the aggregate heat generated by components has a lot of benefits: It improves the integrity of circuit boards, reduces cooling expenses, and lowers repair and maintenance costs. What’s not to like?
Heat accelerates component degradation, in both performance and integrity. Electronic components need to be maintained at stable temperatures to avoid chemical reactions that break down or alter the materials within them; a general rule of thumb is that the speed of chemical reactions doubles for each increase of 10° C.
Heat also can put stress on the boards themselves, particularly when the boards run at high output for extended periods of time. Even small amounts of flexing and warping can break delicate circuit leads, which degrades performance and causes components or the board itself to fail entirely.
Network traffic has grown at 27% CAGR during the last five years, and demand for data volume and speed are only accelerating. People will work from home more often, with hybrid work defining the new normal, which means even more dependence on networks, the hardware that supports them, and the data centers where they live. One result is denser network circuit boards - quadrupling in speed with no increase in rack size - and, therefore, more heat being generated inside data centers.
Active cooling has long been the answer but is expensive; the market for data center active cooling is forecast to surpass $20 billion in 2024. In general, growth in data center expense is outrunning increases in overall IT budgets, threatening profitability. It would be a significant win to manage heat at its source, reducing the need for costly active cooling.
Thermal management materials such as thermal gels and phase change materials play a pivotal role as networks (and the devices that comprise them) become more powerful and generate more heat. One example: Properly applied, thermal materials such as a microTIM thin film can reduce temperature on a 400 GbE module by more than 5° C - that’s a significant decrease.
The end result: Heat dissipation helps increase component life expectancy, cuts downtime and replacement cost, saves money on cooling, and allows greater bandwidth density in data centers - all while reducing costs.
Electronic components get hot. That problem is exacerbated by the demand for improved reliability, higher power density, and greater speed.
Thermal management - a small but vital element of network infrastructure - significantly affects network operational performance. Small changes in manufacturing materials help improve reliability, even in the face of increasing demands on networks and the components that drive them. They’re a small change with a big impact.