Innovation Addresses Rising Thermal Challenges in Mobile Devices, Computers and Data Centers 

Thermal Challenges
Georgia Tech researchers have achieved what is believed to be the first microfluidic cooling of a commercial system-on-chip for a mobile device. The liquid cooling reduced energy use by 15 to 20 percent. (Credit: Rob Felt, Georgia Tech)

In the struggle to improve the performance of mobile devices such as smartphones, extending battery life is just one part of the effort.

System designers must increasingly worry about removing heat, an unwanted byproduct of watching a YouTube video, shooting a selfie, or updating a Facebook page.

In the same way that physical limits on the size of transistors may throttle the performance growth promised by Moore’s Law (the expectation that computer processing power will double about every two years), the challenge of removing heat from ever-smaller transistors also poses a threat to continued efficiency improvements. The resulting tradeoffs will affect everything that relies on integrated circuits – from mobile phones and tablets all the way up to high-performance computers and data centers the size of football fields.

At Georgia Tech, researchers are addressing these thermal challenges in broad and bold ways. Their efforts include designing chips that operate with less power, providing new forms of cooling, and optimizing data center operations.

“The challenges on the small scale are very different from the challenges at the large scale,” said Yogendra Joshi, a professor in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering, whose research group studies thermal challenges in a comprehensive way. “Everyone wants more capabilities in the devices they are using, but there are tradeoffs to be made at each level.”

Read the complete feature on the Research Horizons website