The Dork's guide to electronics thermal management

Okay, you caught me: I'm a Dork. I've been a Dork for a long time, and qualify for this title on many levels and subjects, yet today's foray into Dorkdom involves electronics thermal management and 19th century American philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce, considered to be one of history's most influential thinkers on pragmatism, epistemology, and logic...

...see, I TOLD you I was a Dork. Anyway, what I always loved about Peirce is his uncanny ability to cut to the chase on all matters, great and small. During his lifetime from 1839 to 1914, he wrote about stuff you can't ignore—a lot like all that heat that comes out of powerful electronics... the heat gives systems designers fits in their attempts to get rid of it.

Here's my favorite quote from Peirce, one that has stuck with me since I first read it in college during the late '70s, and which I thought about while researching this month's Product Intelligence report on electronics cooling and thermal management.

"A court may issue injunctions and judgments against me and I care not a snap of my finger for them. I may think them idle vapor," Peirce wrote. "But when I feel the sheriff's hand on my shoulder, I shall begin to have a sense of actuality. Actuality is something brute."

...and so it is with heat in electronics. You can't theorize it away, you can't wish it away, and sometimes you can't even design it away—not without spending a boatload of money on exotic approaches involving some sort of liquid cooling.

I'm sure there are electronics designers out there who would agree that thermal management in today's electronics is, indeed, something BRUTE. I know more than a few of them out there who are getting a BIG sense of actuality these days when it comes to electronics cooling.

I've been told that removing heat from electronics is one of the few real threats out there that could lead to the end of Moore's Law—you know, the one that says computing power doubles every 18 months or so? It's hard to get the heat out, and these powerful new computers generate heat, let me tell you.

I'm told the new Intel Core i7 microprocessors that so many are making a fuss over these days—including us—generates in the neighborhood of 45 watts of heat. That's a big problem for the designers trying to build small, lightweight technology for unmanned systems and wearable computers.

I'm also hearing that some influential military systems designers are getting so fed up with the headaches of cooling electronics that they're considering giving COTS up altogether. Yes, you heard that right. Commercial off-the-shelf computing technology often is good stuff, and it's affordable, yet it can be a pain to cool in deployable embedded applications.

Some designers out there evidently are ready to throw up their hands and just start building custom electronics that has the cooling built in from the start, rather than as an afterthought. At the end of the day, it just might not only be more reliable and rugged if they design systems that way, but it might be less expensive, too.

It won't be less expensive to build and buy, but if the military is honest and looks at design, procurement, and lifetime maintenance costs, they might be better off to specify some of the really hot electronics as custom systems, rather than COTS systems.

It's the small stuff that our fighting forces need most these days, and it's the small stuff that is so tough to keep cool. These issues are definitely NOT idle vapor, and today's thermal management engineers still have a lot of work to do.

For more on this subject, see this month's Product Intelligence feature entitled "Military electronics cooling and thermal management issues press for new materials development, potential move away from COTS" on page 34.

More Military & Aerospace Electronics Current Issue Articles
More Military & Aerospace Electronics Archives Issue Articles 


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles


Get All the Military Aerospace Electronics News Delivered to Your Inbox or Your Mailbox

Subscribe to Military Aerospace Electronics Magazine or email newsletter today at no cost and receive the latest information on:


  • C4ISR
  • Cyber Security
  • Embedded Computing
  • Unmanned Vehicles

Military & Aerospace Photos

Most Popular Articles

Related Products

XPedite7501 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled XMC Module

The XPedite7501 is a high-performance, low-power, XMC module based on the 5th generation Intel® C...

XPedite7530 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U CompactPCI Module

The XPedite7530 is a high-performance 3U CompactPCI single board computer that is ideal for rugge...

XPedite7570 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module

The XPedite7570 is a high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the 5th genera...

XPedite7572 | 5th Gen Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI Module with SecureCOTS™

The XPedite7572 is a secure and high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the...

XCalibur4500 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 6U CompactPCI Module

The XCalibur4500 is a high-performance 6U CompactPCI single board computer that is ideal for rugg...

XCalibur4501 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction-Cooled 6U CompactPCI Module

The XCalibur4501 is a high-performance 6U CompactPCI single board computer that is ideal for rugg...

XCalibur4540 | 5th Generation Intel® Core™ i7 Broadwell-H Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 6U VPX Module

The XCalibur4540 is a high-performance, 6U OpenVPX™, multiprocessing, single board computer that ...

Medusa VPX3424

The AcQ Inducom “Medusa”VPX3424 is a 3U OpenVPX™ Single Board Computer (SBC) featuring the T4240 ...

XPedite7470 | Intel® Core™ i7 Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI SBC

The XPedite7470 is a high-performance, low-power, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the...

XPedite7472 | Intel® Core™ i7 Processor-Based Conduction- or Air-Cooled 3U VPX-REDI SBC with SecureCOTS™

The XPedite7472 is a secure and high-performance, 3U VPX-REDI, single board computer based on the...

Related Companies

AcQ Inducom

Develops and produces non-certified and certified high-tech modular hardware- and software solutions for on-board and...

United Electronic Industries Inc

UEI is a leader in the PC/Ethernet data acquisition and control, Data Logger/Recorder and Programmable Automation Con...

Advanced Conversion Technology Inc

ACT designs and manufactures, since 1981, an extensive range of AC-DC and DC-DC power supplies (switching, linear, ra...

JuiceBox Energy Inc

JuiceBox Energy develops, engineers and manufactures advanced energy storage systems for residential, government and ...

Electronic Development Labs Inc (EDL)

Since 1943, EDL has strived to provide quality products, outstanding customer service, and superior technical support...

PTC

PTC (Nasdaq: PTC) delivers technology solutions that transform the way companies create, operate and service their pr...

Powell Electronics

An authorized electronic component distributor and experts of military connectors, switches, sensors and relays. Trac...

Eureka Dry Tech

High reliability electronic components utilized in aerospace and defense, requires strict moisture controlled storage...

Germane Systems

Germane Systems designs and manufactures COTS-based rugged high performance computers, servers, and storage systems f...

Sensoray Co Inc

Specializing in the development of custom OEM embedded electronics for industrial, aerospace, defense, medical and se...
Wire News provided by   

Press Releases

Model INCX-4001

The INCX-4001 consists of a high quality audio transceiver specifically designed to implement a complete fiber optic intercom.

Model PS-1210

The PS-1210 is a 1A, 12VDC stand-alone or rack mountable non-switcher (no RF noise) power supply.

Model OS-3121

Optical switches are utilized to disconnect, bypass and reroute fiber optic communications. All of these optical switches are purely optical path, there is no optical to e...

Webcasts

New Design Tools That Help You Develop Radar That Sees the Un-seeable and Detects the Undetectable

Xilinx EW/ISR System Architect, Luke Miller, has new tricks and he’s going to tell you all about them in a new Xilinx Webinar—for free. His Webinar will cover new ways to implement Radar functions including ...
Sponsored by:

Latest from the Paris Air Show

All Access Sponsors


Mil & Aero Magazine

May 2015
Volume 26, Issue 5
file

Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Follow Us On...



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Cyber Security

Monthly newsletter covering cyber warfare, cyber security, information warfare, and information security technologies, products, contracts, and procurement opportunities
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Electronic Warfare

Quarterly newsletter covering technologies and applications in electronic warfare, cyber warfare, optical warfare, and spectrum warfare.
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE