The thermal design power trends and power densities for present and future microprocessors are investigated. The trends are derived based on Moore’s law and scaling theory. Both active and stand-by power are discussed and accounted for in the calculations. A brief discussion of various leakage power components and their impact on the power density trends is provided. Two different lower limits of heat dissipation for irreversible logic computers are discussed. These are based on the irreversibility of logic to represent one bit of information, and on the distribution of electrons to represent a bit. These limits are found to be two or more orders of magnitude lower than present-day microprocessor thermal design power trends. Further, these trends are compared to the projected trends for the desktop product sector from the International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors (ITRS). To evaluate the thermal impact of the projected power densities, heat sink thermal resistances are calculated for a given technology target. Based on the heat sink thermal resistance trends, the evolution of an air-cooling limit consistent with Moore’s law is predicted. One viable alternative to air-cooling, i.e., the use of high-efficiency solid-state thermoelectric coolers (TECs), is explored. The impact of different parasitics on the thermoelectric figure of merit (ZT) is quantified.   This paper was also originally published as part of the Proceedings of the ASME 2005 Heat Transfer Summer Conference.

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