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Linearized Superposition using CFD for Thermal and Power Characterization of Electronic Equipment with Significant Thermal Radiation

and Natural Convection

Paul Gauch Flomerics Inc. 410 South Melrose Drive, Suite 102 Vista, CA 92083 Phone: (760) 643-4028 Fax: (760) 643-4128 Email: Wen Wei, Ph.D. Intel Corporation, DPSD HF3-96, 5200 NE Elam Young Parkway Hillsboro, OR 97124 Phone: (503) 696-2338 Fax: (503) 696-1401 Email: Abstract This paper presents a computational analysis for a PCB level natural convection system that is used to validate the principle of linearized superposition. The validated method is then used to rapidly predict the distribution of power in the PCB based on knowledge of the total input power and on discrete thermal probe data for the PCB. The principle of thermal superposition is fairly well documented for systems in which forced convection is dominant. This principle enables thermal characterization of systems and is particularly useful when used in conjunction with a design oriented CFD tool. This recent development makes it possible to complete most of the computational analysis before accurate electrical power information is available, with almost no compromise in accuracy. More recently, work has been performed to include non-linear thermal effects. Superposition breaks down as soon as there is significant thermal radiation and/or natural convection in the system. These two thermal phenomena are usually significant together because naturally cooled systems tend to have a higher percentage of heat dissipation by radiation due in part to hot spots and also the comparatively low convective ability. By linearizing the problem in the region of the best guess estimate for power levels, the principle of superposition can be harnessed to provide engineering solutions with considerable leeway for power modifications. Key words: CFD, Superposition, Radiation, Natural Convection, Electronics Cooling Introduction The increasing power densities in electronic packages and the increased demand for reliability have forced hardware designers to take a closer look at the thermal design and optimization of equipment. Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) has evolved to the point where useful and reliable information can be obtained from modern commercial CFD codes according to Moffat [1]. Although the results are reliable and detailed, the usefulness of this data is limited for design purposes, even with the availability of optimization capabilities. A CFD program currently answers the What? question, but it does not extract the How? or Why? question for useful metrics. In other words, CFD does not automatically output diagnostic or system characterization information pertaining to the various components of temperature rise that lead to the temperatures of interest. Ironically this is a consequence of the intrinsic solution of the conjugate heat transfer mathematical methods used. In simpler words, a CFD program solves everything for you automatically and does not require separate heat transfer mechanisms to be identified. In answering the How/Why? question by providing diagnostic or characterization information, a whole spectrum of design oriented tools becomes available to the designer. According to Moffat,

component temperatures can be reduced significantly if the design is diagnosed and corrected for aspects such as flow stratification, mean flow temperature, radiation/conduction effects and inlet temperature. One of the biggest problems in accurate modeling of electronic systems is the reliability or simply the lack of power values for components in the system. Knowing the power rating of devices has been a hot topic in recent years and discussions by Kordyban [2] and Addison [3] will confirm this. Pollard et. al. [4] mentions that as the power distribution gets refined during the design cycle, the analyst must perform the thermal analysis again. He goes on to present a superposition method for MCMs using a least squares fitted influence matrix used to determine temperatures for a given power vector without redoing the analysis. This paper presents a generalized method to characterize a given system based on previous work by the author, Gauch [5, 6]. By exploiting the principle of thermal superposition reported by several investigators [1, 4, 5, 6], the influence of any object on all other objects can be determined to a high degree of accuracy. Using basic matrix algebra, the actual temperatures can be determined using this characterization. This method extends the ability to characterize systems that are forced convection dominant and can be used to characterize systems with a high degree of natural convection and radiation. As these two phenomena are non-linear, the principle of superposition cannot be directly employed and a linearized form of the method is introduced. By implication, a linearized superposition method that works well within limits for natural convection and radiation dominant systems, will work for mixed convection systems and also for highly forced convection systems. This then provides a generalized method to characterize any electronics system and has tremendous potential in the design cycle. The motivation behind this work came from the need to solve a real characterization problem for a test Motherboard for which only the total board power dissipation and multiple point temperatures were recorded in a test laboratory. The individual power sources in the components were not known and the task was to determine these. The traditional method is to simulate the same setup in a CFD tool and then guess the power distribution in each device with the constraint of matching the total board power. A very tedious task of manually iterating until the temperatures match the test data is performed and is analogous to the proverbial Can you walk and chew

gum? except that in this case, add another 20 or so tasks and then make sure that the total brain power used to do all these tasks balances your mental capacity. Fortunately, this is a perfect application for the superposition characterization described in this paper and the problem can be solved in about 5 minutes using a spreadsheet and a little matrix knowledge after running a batch of CFD analyses. The mathematical basis for this method is discussed in the next chapter and then a brief discussion of the numerical approach to CFD is made. The combination of methods is addressed and then illustrated using an example. Conclusions wrap up the presentation. Superposition Background Historically, there has been no way to determine the heat transfer coefficient for arbitrary geometry and each piece of geometry required its own correlation using conventional definitions of the heat transfer coefficient.
Q = hA(T1 T )


Considering the definition for the heat transfer coefficient (h) in equation (1), the traditional reference temperature (T) has been either the external ambient or the mean channel temperature. This implies that the heat transfer coefficient for a given discrete surface is dependant on its own heat dissipation and the heat dissipated by other sources, generally upstream. Moffat [1] described a more suitable definition of the heat transfer coefficient.
Q = had A(T1 Tadiabatic )


The adiabatic heat transfer coefficient (had) is named as such because it is the heat transfer coefficient that would be measured if there was no power in the component considered and there was no heat conducted or radiated to/from it. That component would settle at the adiabatic temperature (Tadiabatic), the average temperature of the air surrounding the component. Adding heat to the component (Q) would lead to the average surface temperature (T1) and had would then be known. As the adiabatic heat transfer coefficient is only dependant on the flow physics, all non-superposition able elements are removed from the definition. As CFD solves the heat transfer intrinsically, based only on the local flow physics, consistency is maintained

and CFD is ideal for the application of the superposition principle. One obstacle that does however arise is that the actual arriving air temperature is now not accounted for. The next step is to generalize the use of the heat transfer coefficient. This is done by considering the concept of a kernel function. This function relates the temperature of the fluid at all other points based on the heating of a given point. Anderson and Moffat [7,8] give a correlation for the kernel function for the specific case where an array of heated modules is placed on a board with a flow channel above the modules. The kernel for 1 module would represent the heated air from a given module and would affect the reference temperature of the modules downstream and nominally to the sides. It would be difficult to describe superposition kernel functions for arbitrary geometries, especially when there is a significant effect of conduction taking place. This is where CFD comes in to play once again and the effect of one object on another is captured in a conjugate sense as the CFD code can determine how the effect of heating one object affects all others using all forms of heat transfer. As soon as significant buoyancy and radiation occurs in a system, the non-linearities associated with these break the strict capabilities of thermal superposition. Now that we have the background on the principle of the adiabatic heat transfer coefficient and conjugate superposition kernel function, we can proceed to see how to solve these non-linearities and use the principle in practice. Numerical Background The electronics cooling CFD package, FLOTHERM by Flomerics, is a computational fluid and heat transfer analysis and design package specifically for the analysis of electronic equipment. FLOTHERM makes use of the finite volume method to analyze three-dimensional geometries from chip level to system level. FLOTHERM solves the steadystate as well as the transient governing equations. Turbulence is modeled with a choice of zero or two equation models. The governing equations are shown here in compact form for conservation of mass, momentum (Navier-Stokes) and energy respectively [9]: r u = 0 (3) r r r r r u + (u )u = P + 2 u + g(T T ) (4) t

c p

r T + c p u T = kT + S t


These equations are discretized into algebraic expression and solved for iteratively using a computational grid. The conjugate heat and flow solution is performed using the Boussinesq approximation for buoyancy forces.
g ( amb ) = amb g (T Tamb )


The change in density of the fluid due to the addition of heat is proportional to the change in temperature and is equated using the coefficient of expansivity (). When significant buoyant forces exist in a system, the flow and thermal solutions are said to be strongly coupled. An implication of this is that the effective heat transfer capability of the fluid is dependant on the amount of heat dissipated in the system and therefore superposition is not strictly preserved in the system. Radiation is another non-linear phenomenon and in a simplified form can be described by as:
Q = AT 4


Where is the Stefan-Bolzmann constant ( = 5.67x10-8 W/m2K4) and is the emmisivity of the surface. FLOTHERM solves radiation in detail by performing a fully conservative exchange factor calculation for all surfaces. The result is added to the energy equation (5) and has the same implication as the buoyant forces in that it adds a non-linearity to the system that superposition cannot strictly handle. The numerical solution of the governing equations provides all the characterization necessary for the use of the proposed method. The CFD determines the convective heat transfer through the energy equation implicitly determining the local heat transfer coefficients and thermal kernel for each heated object. Superposition Method For systems dominated by forced convection, the effect of any one device on all others (and itself), i.e. the influence or superposition kernel function was previously determined by firstly switching off all power an then one unit heat source at a time was activated and the model was converged. This process was repeated as many times as there are discrete heat sources. Each consecutive CFD change was quick to converge due to the fact that the flow

field was determined in the very first analysis and all consequent analyses only had to adjust temperatures. A selected number of points need to be monitored in the domain of the project. These would usually be critical points of interest such as the die junction temperature of each component; in fact any point of interest can be monitored. At the end of each converged run, the temperatures of these points must be noted. For n discrete heat sources and m discrete monitor points, a matrix is set up. The matrix elements contain the temperature rise above ambient.
R1,1 R 1,2 = ... ... R1,m R2,1 ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... .... ... Rn ,1 ... ... ... Rn , m

what happens when systems have significant levels of buoyancy or radiation.

Device 1, 2, 3

Non-Dimensional Power (%) Fig. 1: Linear Superposition Characteristic

Rn , m

(8) T Device 1, 2, 3

This matrix can be called the thermal influence matrix as it relates the unit heating of any one device (n) to the temperature rise of all monitor points (m) and the units are the same as those for thermal resistance [C/W], hence the use or R. Once the discrete power sources become known, they can be entered into a source vector of n sources.
P1 r P 2 Pn = ... Pn

Non-Dimensional Power (%) Fig. 2: Non-Linear Superposition Characteristic The effect of increasing power for both buoyancy and radiation is a diminishing gradient of temperature rise. With increased power comes increased buoyancy and hence increased convection. The radiation heat transfer is also improved with additional power due to the 4th power influence of temperature to heat transfer. If the preceding method were used, the results would follow the dashed line and the temperatures for any particular point would be incorrect. The revised method is very similar in its application except that the procedure aims to linearize the problem around a suitable best guess so that superposition can be applied. Instead of applying a unit amount of heat to one component at a time, the linearized approach applies a perturbed real power vector to the problem by adding the unit amount of heat to a real power vector one component at a time. To complete the thermal influence matrix requirements, one additional analysis is required for the non-perturbed power vector. The matrix is then derived by subtracting the resulting temperature of the non-perturbed case with each perturbed case. It is important to note that the accuracy of the method is dependant on a) the preservation of total power dissipation in the system and b) to a lesser extent on the accuracy of the real


A matrix multiplication is then performed. The resulting m dimensional vector represents the temperature rise of each monitor point.
r r Rn ,m Pn = Tm


This matrix can be augmented by the ambient temperature to give the actual temperature at each monitor point (Tpi). This method gives excellent agreement for all forced convection cases and it implies that if all heat sources were modified by a certain ratio, then the resulting temperatures would change with the same ratio - a consequence of superposition. Figure 1 illustrates this principle: As soon as the system has any significant buoyant forces or radiation effects, the above linear pattern is changed and the temperature rise of any component is a function of the actual temperature. A trend can be shown for this and figure 2 illustrates

power vector. This real power vector can thus be called the best guess power vector. In the linear approach, the thermal influence matrix was multiplied with a power vector to determine the resulting temperatures. For the generalized case, there are two steps in determining the temperature values. Firstly the best guess temperature results need to be preserved, then a new r power vector ( Pdelta ) is needed that is equal to the difference between the desired power vector and the best guess power vector.
r r r Pdelta = Pdesired Pbest _ guess

board is of the whole board as symmetry was assumed in the modeling process. This hypothetical board is mounted slightly above a surface horizontally and each of the devices, although identical in size, has very different power levels. The PCB is assigned the emmisivity typical of FR4 ( = 0.9) and the components have been assigned emmisivity values, = 0.7, representing dull dark packages. Each package has a monitor point to monitor a typical device temperature. Symmetry Faces


The multiplication of this new vector with the thermal influence matrix results in a vector representing the linearized temperature difference between the best guess and desired temperatures. All that is left to do is to add the best guess temperatures to the new temperature differences.
r r r Tbest _ guess + Rn ,m Pdelta = Tdesired


Fig. 4: FLOTHERM Model of Application Example

To illustrate this process, consider figure 3 for the same case illustrated in figure 2. This figure is only representative for the case where all power values are increased by the same percentage. Best Guess Power T Device 1, 2, 3 Desired Power

The total power dissipated by the system is 55.2 W. That means that in each symmetry quadrant, the board is dissipating 13.8 W. A representative temperature was measured for each component. The temperature measurements are given by the following temperature vector for the nine devices (All vectors shown are transposed for space requirements):
r Tmeasured = [91 80 75 95 87 65 65 75 65]C

Desired Temperatures Non-Dimensional Power (%) Fig. 3: Non-Linear Superposition Method Very few real cases will require all power to increment in the same way. To consider a more generalized case, an application example follows for a hypothetical project. Application Example As the motivation for this work was to reverse engineer the power levels from a motherboard, a hypothetical case has been set up to emulate this process. Figure 4 shows part of a PCB with 9 devices on it and includes flow animation particles and surface temperatures. This part of the

The next step is to determine a suitable best guess power vector and to set up the thermal influence matrix.
r Pbest _ guess = [3.0 2.0 1.0 3.5 2.5 0.2 0.5 1.0 0.1]W

Using FLOTHERM together with the Command Center, a module in the software used to perform parametric studies, the set of n+1 analyses is automated and the resulting thermal influence matrix is shown in the following figure.
10.5 1.7 0.9 1.7 R= 1.1 0.8 0.9 0.7 0.5 2 10.4 2.6 1.2 1.8 1.7 0.8 0.9 1 1.1 2.7 13.4 0.9 1.7 2.9 0.7 1.1 1.6 1.9 1.1 0.8 10.3 1.8 1 2.5 1.5 1 1.3 1.9 1.7 1.9 10.3 2.6 1.7 2.4 2.2 0.9 1.8 3.1 1.1 2.7 13.1 1.2 2.3 4 1 0.8 0.7 2.7 1.7 1.1 13.7 2.8 1.4 0.9 1.1 1.2 1.8 2.6 2.3 3.1 13.3 4 0.8 1.2 1.6 1.2 2.4 4.2 1.6 4.1 17.7

Note that the thermal influence matrix diagonal components have much larger values than the other components. These components represent the perturbation heating temperature rise of the perturbed components themselves. By manual iteration, the real power vector was determined for the given measured values of temperature. These powers resulted in a maximum difference between the measured temperature and the superposition temperature of less than 1%.
r Presult = [3.15 1.75 1.25 3.5 2.5 0.13 0.13 1.1 0.15]W

By reducing CFD results to sensible diagnostic and characterization data, design improvements can be made more easily due to good knowledge of the underlying problems. Additionally, the design environment often has many unknowns and these same metrics can be used to complete the analysis phase of the projects prior to all the needed knowledge being available. References [1] Moffat, R. J., Getting the Most out of Your CFD Program, 8th Intersociety Conference on Thermal and Thermomechanical Phemomena in Electronic Systems (ITHERM), pp. 9-14, San Diego, CA, May 2002. [2] Kordyban, T., Ten Stupid Things Engineers do to Mess up Their Cooling, Electronics Cooling Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 52-55, January 2000. [3] Addison, S., Thermal Analysis moves into the 21st Century, Electronics Cooling Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp. 56-63, January 2000.

The ability to match the superposition temperature closely only illustrates the speed benefit of this process. Now the same power vector needs to be applied to a full CFD analysis to compare the superposition results to the full CFD results. Figure 5 compares the results:
Full CFD vs. Superposition
130 120 110

100 90 80 70 60 50 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Device number

Superposition Full CFD Linear Superposition

[4] Pollard, L.L., Salskov, E., and Lee, S., Thermal Analysis and Validation of MCMs, 16th Annual IEEE Semiconductor Thermal Measurement and Management Symposium (SEMI-THERM), pp. 140146, San Jose, CA, March 21-23, 2000. [5] Gauch, P., A Design Approach to Thermal Characterization of Forced Convection Systems using Superposition in CFD, IMAPS 2000 Boston, Boston, MA, September 18-22, 2000. [6] Gauch, P., Using FLOTHERM and the Command Center to Exploit the Principle of Superposition, 9th International FLOTHERM User Conference, Orlando, FL, October, 2000. [7] Anderson, A.M., and Moffat, R.J., The Adiabatic Heat Transfer Coefficient and Superposition Kernel Function: Part 1 Data for Arrays of Flatpacks for Different Flow Conditions, Journal of Electronic Packaging, Vol. 114, pp.14-21, March 1992. [8] Anderson, A.M., and Moffat, R.J., The Adiabatic Heat Transfer Coefficient and Superposition Kernel Function: Part 2 Modeling Flatpack Data as a function of Channel Turbulence, Journal of Electronic Packaging, Vol. 114, pp.22-28, March 1992. [9] Mills, A.F., Heat and Mass Transfer, Irwin, First Edition, Chicago, pp. 451-461, 1995.


Fig. 5: Validation of Linearized Superposition

The differences in results are in the decimal percentage range and illustrates that when matching the total power closely, this method works very well. Also in the plot is the result for linear superposition where the differences in results range from 41% to 80% illustrating the need to perform the linearized or generalized superposition. Conclusion This work set out to solve the immediate problem of reverse engineering power data to existing temperature data and the total known power. This is one of many potential applications for the generalized superposition method described in the paper. Tests were done for more extreme power vectors that deviate from the total system power considerably. In these cases, the results were still well within engineering accuracy when compared with full CFD analyses.