Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) are used as thermally conducting media to carry away the heat dissipated by an energy source (e.g. active circuitry on a silicon die). Thermal properties of these interface materials, specified on vendor datasheets, are obtained under conditions that rarely, if at all, represent real life environment. As such, they do not accurately portray the material thermal performance during a field operation. Furthermore, a thermal engineer has no a priori knowledge of how large, in addition to the bulk thermal resistance, the interface contact resistances are, and, hence, how much each influences the cooling strategy. In view of these issues, there exists a need for these materials/interfaces to be characterized experimentally through a series of controlled tests before starting on a thermal design. In this study we present one such characterization for a candidate thermal interface material used in an electronic cooling application. In a controlled test environment, package junction-to-case, Rjc, resistance measurements were obtained for various bondline thicknesses (BLTs) of an interface material over a range of die sizes. These measurements were then curve-fitted to obtain numerical models for the measured thermal resistance for a given die size. Based on the BLT and the associated thermal resistance, the bulk thermal conductivity of the TIM and the interface contact resistance were determined, using the approach described in the paper. The results of this study permit sensitivity analyses of BLT and its effect on thermal performance for future applications, and provide the ability to extrapolate the results obtained for the given die size to a different die size. The suggested methodology presents a readily adaptable approach for the characterization of TIMs and interface/contact resistances in the industry.

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