TSMC is experimenting with on-chip liquid cooling

Posted on Tuesday, July 13 2021 @ 15:19 CEST by Thomas De Maesschalck
Packaging technology is a big area of future innovation for semiconductors. As it's getting harder to squeeze more performance out of a chip via conventional methods, chip makers are looking at alternative ways to satisfy the need for more performance. In the future, we're going to see more chips with vertical 3D stacking and this could pose some issues for cooling.

With traditional air or watercooling, the bottom layers of a chip will have more trouble dissipating their heat, which will result in performance throttling. The top layer will also have extra strain because the heat of the entire package moves through it to the dissipation layer.

To address these future needs, TSMC ran some experiments with on-chip liquid cooling solutions. The Taiwanese foundry cooked up Thermal Test Vehicles (TTVs) and experimented with three water cooling designs:
The company further tested three types of water cooling designs: one with only direct water cooling (DWC), where water has its own circulating channels etched directly into the chip's silicon as part of the manufacturing process; another design with water channels being etched into their own silicon layer on top of the chip proper, with a Thermal Interface Material (TIM) layer of OX (Silicon Oxide Fusion) that carried heat from the chip to the watercooling layer; and lastly a design which swapped the OX layer for a simpler, cheaper liquid metal solution.
Tom's Hardware has more details over here. The direct water cooling method offered the best cooling performance -- with a dissipation of up to 2600W and a temperature delate of 63°C. A pillar-based water flow design offered by far the best performance characteristics.

Just don't expect to see this in consumer applications anytime soon.

TSMC on die watercooling

About the Author

Thomas De Maesschalck

Thomas has been messing with computer since early childhood and firmly believes the Internet is the best thing since sliced bread. Enjoys playing with new tech, is fascinated by science, and passionate about financial markets. When not behind a computer, he can be found with running shoes on or lifting heavy weights in the weight room.

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