Thermal management has always been important but with increasing operating frequencies for higher performance and the continued shrinking of integrated circuits (ICs) and other components, it is more than important – it's critical. Hot spots can easily be created in today's embedded PCs. According to an Intel executive at a recent technology forum, "Thermal issues are the number one problem we face today."
System designs using embedded PCs require heat dissipation from a few watts for a 386-based system to over 100 watts for a dual Pentium® 4 processor system. Compounding the thermal management task are the special environmental, high availability and longevity requirements frequently found in embedded systems. Dissipating even 10 watts can be difficult in a system that cannot use fans, must be completely sealed, and must operate in an environment where the ambient air temperature is 50°C and the maximum operating temperature is 85°C. Obtaining the proper thermal design consists of both thermal modeling and verification by actual measurements.
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