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Thursday, September 30, 2021

THE HAPPENING WORLD: Cooling High-Performance Microprocesors

In the 1960s and 1970s, supercomputers were all about cooling. High speed circuits, in particular emitter-coupled logic (ECL), which ran their transistors out of the saturation zone in the interest of fast switching, were famously power-hungry and consumed current constantly, not just when switching. Consequently, they took a lot of power and dissipated abundant heat, which had to be efficiently removed from the components. Some amazing schemes were used, such as the IBM thermal conduction module and the Cray-2, which bathed its logic circuits in circulating Fluorinert fluid cooled in an external “waterfall”.

The advent of power-stingy CMOS circuitry, which consumes almost no power except when actually switching, and the benefits of the Dennard scaling theorem as circuit geometries shrunk over the years, halted the correlation of power consumption with computing speed for decades, but around 2006 the end of the road was reached, resulting in cessation of rapid increases in clock speed and an increasing focus on multi-core and other parallel architectures. Since then, heat has returned as a major issue in high performance computing.

As the next generation of processors comes into view, the power dissipation limits of forced air and even water cooling by conduction from conventional packages are reaching their limits. This video surveys approaches to coping with this challenge, including piping water right into processor chips to cool them by direct contact with the back side of the silicon substrate,

Posted at September 30, 2021 11:19