Category Archives: thermal management

Industry Developments: Cooling QSFP Optical Transceivers

By Norman Quesnel
Senior Member of Marketing Staff
Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.

Rapid advancements in fiber optic technology have increased transfer rates from 10GbE to 40/100GbE within data centers. With the emergence of 100GbE technologies, the creation of data center network architectures free from bandwidth constraints has been made possible. The major enabler of this performance increase is the QSFP optical transceiver.

QSFP is the Quad (4-channel) Small Form-Factor Pluggable optical transceiver standard. A QSFP transceiver interfaces a network device, e.g. switch, router, media converter, to a fiber optic or copper cable connection as part of a Fast Ethernet LAN.

The QSFP design became an industry standard via the Small Form Factor Committee in 2009. Since then, the format has steadily evolved to enable higher data rates. Today, the QSFP MSA (multi-source agreement) specification supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel (FC), InfiniBand and SONET/SDH standards with different data rate options.

QSFP

Fig. 1. The Small QSFP Form Factor Allows More Connectors and Bandwidth than Other Fiber Optic Transceiver Formats. Note the Cooling Fins on Each Receiver Device. [1]

Thermal Issues

The small QSFP form factor has significantly increased the number of ports per package. The increased density of transceivers can lead to heat issues. The optical modules can get hot due to their use of lasers to transmit data. Even though the popular QSFP28 provides lower power dissipation than earlier transceivers – abut 3.5W, the QSFP28 factor has also allowed a significant increase in port density.

Newer microQSFPs can dissipate even more heat. microQSFP interconnects fit more ports (up to 72) on a standard line card, saving significant design space.

Fig 2. Air Gap Locations Shown in Thermal Specifications Feature on QSFP. Top: QSFP at the Inside Edge of a Cage, Bottom: QSFP Section Showing Typical Internal Layout. [2]

The performance and longevity of the transceiver lasers depend on the ambient temperature they operate in and the thermal characteristics of the packaging of these devices. The typical thermal management approach combines heat dissipating fins, e.g. heat sinks, and directed airflow.

Fig 3. Test set-up of different heat sink designs on QSFP28 connector cages. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

Recently, Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) tested a variety of pin and fin-style heat sinks for their comparative cooling performance on a standard QSFP connector cage. For this setup, an even amount of heat was provided to each connector site via a heater block. Individual thermocouples measured the heat flux resulting with the different heat sink types.

A main goal of this test was how each of four heat sinks would perform while relying on airflow incoming from just one side. By the time it reached the fourth heat sink would the airflow provide enough conduction for adequate cooling? An image from this series of tests is below in Figure 4.

Fig. 4. Test Setup to measure cooling performance of individual heat sinks on a QSFP connector cage when airflow is from one side only. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The tests results showed that the denser the heat sink pins or fins on the sink closest to the incoming air, the hotter the farthest away QSFP will be. Thus, the best solution used heat sinks whose pin/fin layouts were optimized to work in the actual airflow reaching them.

This meant more open layouts closer to the air source, allowing more air to reach denser pin/fin sinks farther from the air. The non-homogeneous heat sinks allowed for a low, uniform temperature across the QSFP for the most effective function of the QSFPs’ lasers.

microQSFPs

Cooling solutions are different between QSFP28 designs and microQSFP installations. QSFP28 transceiver cooling is typically provided at multiple connector sites. microQSFP modules, e.g. from TE Connectivity, have an integrated heat sink in the individual optical module. Used with connection cages that are optimized for airflow, their heat is controlled in high density applications.

Fig. 5. Integrated Module Thermal Solution (Fins) on microQSFPs Provides Better Thermal Performance and Uses Less Energy for Air Cooling. [3]

Fig. 6. A Video Demo from TE Connectivity Shows 72 Ports of microQSFP Transceivers Units Running at 5W Each and All Kept Under 55°C Temperature Using 82 CFM Airflow. [4]

Finally, another factor affecting cooling performance is surface finish and flatness. Designers can reduce thermal spreading losses by keeping the heat sources close to the thermal interface area and by increasing the thermal conductivity of the case materials.

For QSFP, the size of the cage hole for heat sink contact given in the multi-source agreement (MSA) can be increased giving a reduction in the thermal interface resistance and therefore module temperature.

References:
1. FMAD IO, http://fmad.io/images/blog/20160612-100g-connectors.png
2. https://arkansashq.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/pluggable-optics-modules-thermal-specifications-part-2/
3. microQSFP, http://www.microqsfp.com/
4. TE Connectivity, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_qNj-yAKz4

For more information about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) thermal management consulting and design services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.

Follow ATS on Twitter and Instagram for #ThermalEngineerDay

National Thermal Engineer Day is finally here! Make sure to follow Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) on Twitter (@qats) and on Instagram (@advancedthermsolutions) to see photos and watch videos from the ATS celebration.

Join in the social media conversation about this national day of recognition by using the hashtag #ThermalEngineerDay. Make sure to share your photos and the ways that you have taken time to celebrate the accomplishments and contributions of thermal engineers.

For more information about National Thermal Engineer Day, click https://www.qats.com/cms/national-thermal-engineer-day.

Analysis of Fan Curves and Fan Laws in Thermal Management of Electronics

This is the second installment in a two-part series examining the use of fans in the thermal management of electronics. Part one, which can be found at https://www.qats.com/cms/2017/03/06/utilizing-fans-thermal-management-electronics-systems, took a closer look at the common types of fans and blowers and the factors that engineers should consider when picking a fan.

In part two, basic fan laws will be explored, as well as using fan curves to analyze fan performance in a system. These standard calculations can help engineers establish boundary conditions for air velocity and pressure drop and ensure that these will meet the thermal requirements (e.g. ambient and junction temperature) of the system.

Fan Laws

CFD simulations of air velocity in a system with fans drawing air across high-powered components. Utilizing fan curves and fan laws enabled ATS engineers to establish the parameters for a successful use of fans for cooling this system. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

FAN LAWS

As noted by Mike Turner of Comair Rotron in “All You Need to Know About Fans,” the primary principle for determining whether or not a fan work within a particular system is that “any given fan can only deliver one flow at one pressure in a particular system.” Each fan has a specific operating point that can be discovered on the fan curve at the intersection of fan static pressure curve and the system pressure curve. Turner advises, “It is best to select a fan that will give an operating point being toward the high flow, low pressure end of the performance curve to maintain propeller efficiency and to avoid propeller stall.”

Before getting to the fan curve though, engineers must run through basic calculations to understand the conditions of the systems in which the fans will be placed. The three basic fan laws, according to Eldridge USA, are as follows:

Fan Laws

While those fan laws will tell you about the specific fans, it is also critical to examine the system in which the fans will be operating. Among the equations that can be used to characterize a system are Volumetric Flow Rate, Mass Flow Rate, Pressure, Power, and Sound (equations are listed below).

Fan Laws

A Qpedia Thermal eMagazine article entitled, “How to Use Fan Curves and Laws in Thermal Design,” added:

“Published fan laws apply to applications where a fan’s air flow rate and pressure are independent of the Reynolds number. In some applications, however, fan performance is not independent and thus the change in Reynolds number should be incorporated into the equation. To determine if the Reynolds number needs to be considered, it must first be calculated.

“According to AMCA specifications, an axial fan’s minimum Reynolds number is 2.0×106. When the calculated Reynolds number is above this value, its effects can be ignored.”

The equation to calculate the Reynolds number is as follows:

Fan Law

In an “Engineering Letter” from The New York Blower Company, it was explained that fan laws only work “within a fixed system with no change in the aerodynamics or airflow characteristics of the system.” In the case of electronics cooling, in which the system requirements will be mostly consistent (with margins for error in case of max power usage), these laws will govern the capabilities of the fans to provide the necessary forced convection cooling for the components in the system.

The Engineering Letter continued, “During the process of system design, the fan laws can be helpful in determining the alternate performance criteria or in developing a maximum/minimum range.” A Qpedia article entitled, “Designing Efficient Fans for Electronics Cooling Applications,” added, “As a general rule, fan efficiency increases with blade diameter and rotational speed.”

There are tools that can assist engineers in the calculation of these basic fan laws, including fan calculators, such as the one provided by Twin City Fans & Blowers.

ANALYZING FAN CURVES AND FAN PERFORMANCE

The aerodynamics of a fan can be charted in a fan curve, which displays the static pressure of the system dependent on the amount of air flow. As Turner noted, fan curves are read from right to left, beginning “with healthy aerodynamic flow and follow it through to aerodynamic stall.” Turner continued, “It is best to select a fan that will give an operating point being toward the high flow, low pressure end of the performance curve to maintain propeller efficiency and to avoid propeller stall.”

Fan Laws

An example of a basic fan curve with static pressure on the Y-axis and airflow on the X-axis. Fan curves are read from right to left beginning with healthy airflow.

There are means for testing fan curves, such as the FCM-100 Fan Characterization Module (pictured below) from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS). The FCM-100 is specially designed with flow restriction plates that allow the user to control pressure drop across the system during testing. Used in conjunction with pressure and velocity measurement equipment, it verifies manufacturer performance data.

Fan Laws

The ATS FCM-100 Fan Characterization Module is a specialized unit designed to test and characterize fans of various sizes and performance outputs. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

The Qpedia article on fan curves explained, “During a typical fan test, a dozen or more operating points are plotted for pressure and flow rate, and from this data a fan curve is constructed.”

Once a fan curve is determined, it is possible to examine the data and find the operating range for the fans that will meet the thermal requirements of a system. It is also important to note a section in the fan curve, often referred to as the knee of the curve in which the relationship between flow rate and static pressure is no longer easy to predict. There is no longer an easily recognizable, calculable relationship between how a change in one will affect the other.

ATS field application engineer Vineet Barot explained how he analyzed fan curve data, particularly the knee of the curve, in a recent project:

“This is flow rate versus pressure. The more pressure you have in front of a fan, the slower it can pump out the air and this is the curve that determines that.

Fan Laws

Fan operating points on the board, determined by CFD simulations. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

“This little area here is sometime called the knee of the fan curve. Let’s say we’re in this area, the flow rate and pressure is relatively linear, so if I increase my pressure, if I put my hand in front of the fan, the flow rate goes down. If I have no pressure, I have my maximum flow rate. If I increase my pressure then the flow rate goes down. What happens in this part? The same thing. In the knee, a slight increase in pressure, so from .59 to .63, reduces the flow rate quite a bit.

Stratix 10 FPGA

CFD simulations showed that the fans were operating in the “knee” where it is hard to judge the impact of pressure changes on flow rate and vice versa. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

“So, for a 0.1 difference in flow rate (in cubic meters per second) it took 0.4 inches of water pressure difference, whereas here for a 0.1 difference in flow rate it only took a .04 increase in pressure. That’s why there’s a circle there. It’s a danger area because if you’re in that range it gets harder to predict what the flow will be because any pressure-change, any dust build-up, any change in estimated open area might change your flow rate.

Fan Laws

CFD analysis of flow vectors across high-powered components on a PCB. This simulation was part of an examination of fan performance in a system. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

CONCLUSION

While it is important to know the types of fans on the market and manufacturers provide data about the power and operating ranges of each product, it is important for there to be a basic understanding of the laws that govern how fans operate in a system and an ability to examine fan curve data in order to optimize performance.

“Bulk testing of electronics chassis provides the relationship between air flow and pressure drop and determines the fan performance needed to cool a given power load. The fan rating is often a misunderstood issue and published ratings can be somewhat misleading. Knowledge of fan performance curves, and how they are obtained, allows for a more informed decision when selecting a fan. Continued and ever shortening product design cycles demand a ‘get it right the first time’ approach. The upfront use of system curves, fan curves and fan laws can help meet this goal.”

Read more and see examples of fan laws and curves in practice at https://www.qats.com/cms/2013/07/24/how-to-use-fan-curves-and-laws-in-thermal-design.

CLICK HERE FOR PART I

To learn more about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. consulting services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.

Utilizing Fans in Thermal Management of Electronics Systems

Fans in Thermal Management

There are different types of fans that are used in thermal management of electronics with tube axial fans being the most common. (Wikimedia Commons)


The ongoing trend in the electronics industry is for increasingly high-powered components to meet the ever-growing demands of consumers. Coupled with greater component-density in smaller packages, thermal management is more and more of a priority to ensure performance and reliability over the life of an electronics system.

As thermal needs have grown, engineers have sought out different cooling methods to supplement convection cooling. While options such as liquid cooling have grown in popularity in recent years, still one of the most common techniques is to add fans to a system.

Through the years, fan designs have improved. Fan blades have been streamlined to produce great flow rate with less noise and fans have become more power-efficient to meet the desires of customers trying to use less resources and save costs.

While much has changed in the presentation of fans, there are many basic concepts that engineers must consider when deciding how to implement fans in a project.

This is part one of a two-part series on how to select the best fan for a project. Part one will cover the types of fans that can be used. Part two, which can be found at https://www.qats.com/cms/2017/03/10/analysis-of-fan-curves-and-fan-laws-in-thermal-management-electronics, will cover fan laws and analyzing fan curves.

COMMON TYPES OF FANS AND BLOWERS

As described by Mike Turner of Comair Rotron in an article for Electronics Cooling Magazine, “All You Need to Know About Fans,” fans are essentially low pressure air pumps that take power from a motor to “output a volumetric flow of air at a given pressure.” He continued, “A propeller converts torque from the motor to increase static pressure across the fan rotor and to increase the kinetic energy of the air particles.”

In a white paper from Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) entitled, “Performance Difference Between Fans and Blowers and Their Implementation,” it was added that fans are at their core, dynamic pumps. The article added, that in dynamic pumps “the fluid increases momentum while moving through open passages and then converts its high velocity to a pressure increase by exiting into a diffuser section.”

The biggest difference between a fan and a blower is the direction in which the air is delivered. Fans push air in a direction that is parallel to the fan blade axis, while blowers move air perpendicular to the blower axis. Turner noted that fans “can be designed to deliver a high flow rate, but tend to work against low pressure” and blowers move air at a “relatively low flow rate, but against high pressure.”

The three types of fans are centrifugal, propeller, tube axial, and vane axial:

• In centrifugal fans, the air flows into the housing and turns 90 degrees while accelerating due to centrifugal forces before being flowing out of the fan blades and exiting the housing.
• Propeller fans are the simplest form of a fan with only a motor and propellers and no housing.
• Tube axial fans, according to Turner, are similar to a propeller fan but “also has a venture around the propeller to reduce the vortices.”
• Vane axial fans have vanes trailing behind the propeller to straighten the swirling air as it is accelerated.

The most common fans used in electronics cooling are tube axial fans and there are a number of manufacturers creating options for engineers. A quick search of Digi-Key Electronics, offered options such as Sunon, Orion Fans, Sanyo Denki, NMB Technologies, Delta Electronics, Jameco Electronics, and several more.

Fans in Thermal Management

A fan is added to a heat sink on a PCB in order to increase the air flow and heat dissipation from the board component. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)

FACTORS TO CONSIDER WHEN PICKING A FAN

When selecting a fan, engineers must consider the specific requirements of the system in which they are working, including factors such as the necessary airflow and the size restrictions of the board or the chassis. These basic factors will allow engineers to search through the many available options to find a fan that fits his or her needs.

In addition, engineers may look towards combining multiple fans in parallel or in a series to increase the flow rate across the components without increasing the size of the package or the diameter of the fan.

Parallel operation means having two or more fans side-by-side. When two fans are working in parallel, then the volume flow rate will be increased, even doubled when the fans are operating at maximum. Turner added. “The best results for parallel fans are achieved in systems with low resistance.”

In a series, the fans are stacked on top of each other and results in increased static pressure. Unlike parallel operations, fans in a series work best in a system with high resistance.

The ATS white paper noted, “In real situations, the fans may interfere with each other. The end results is a lower than expected performance.” Turner warns that in either parallel or series configurations there is a point in the combined performance curve that should be avoided because it creates unstable and unpredictable performance, but analyzing fan performance and fan curves will be covered in more detail in part two of the blog.

Efficiency is a major factor when selecting a fan. As noted in an article from Qpedia Thermal eMagazine, “A large data center contains about 400,000 servers and consumes 250 MW of power. It has been estimated that about 20% of the total power supplied to a high end server is consumed by fans.”

Clearly, finding a fan that can work efficiently with lower power will save a considerable about of resources. The article details several methods for creating efficiency in designing a system that includes fans:

“Fan power consumption is traditionally reduced by controlling the motor speed to produce only the airflow required for adequate cooling, rather than operating continuously at full speed. Significant energy savings can be achieved beyond this technique through fan efficiency increase. Optimizing the motor and electronic driver, increasing fan aerodynamic efficiency through careful redesign, and optimizing fan-system integration are three ways of achieving this.”

Read more about the techniques for achieving efficiency at https://www.qats.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Designing_Efficient_Fans_for_Electronics_Cooling
_Applications.pdf
.

CLICK HERE FOR PART II.

To learn more about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. consulting services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.

Power Brick: #GoldStandard Heat Sinks for DC/DC Converters

Power Brick

ATS Power Brick heat sinks are the #GoldStandard for cooling eighth, quarter, half, and full brick DC/DC power converters. (Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc.)


Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. (ATS) has a line of Power Brick heat sinks (available through Digi-Key Electronics and Arrow) that are specially designed to cool eighth-, quarter-, half-, and full-sized DC to DC power converters and power modules. Power Brick heat sinks feature ATS’ patented maxiFLOW™ design, which reduces the air pressure drop and provides greater surface area for more effective convection cooling.

Power Brick heat sinks are a critical component for the optimal thermal management of electronic devices because DC/DC power converters are used in many applications and across a number of industries, including communications, health care, computing, and more.

DC/DC converters are electronic circuits that convert direct current (DC) from one voltage to another. Converters protect electronic devices from power sources that are too strong or step up the level of the system input power to ensure it runs properly. The process works by way of a switching element that turns the initial DC signal into a square wave, which is alternating current (AC), and then passes it through a second filter that converts it back to DC at the necessary voltage.

As explained in an article on MaximIntegrated.com, “Switching power supplies offer higher efficiency than traditional linear power supplies. They can step-up, step-down, and invert. Some designs can isolate output voltage from the input.”

When converting electrical input to the proper voltage, DC/DC converters operate at a specified efficiency level, with some energy lost to heat. ATS Power Brick heat sinks provide the necessary step of dissipating that heat away from the converter to lower the junction temperature. This will optimize the performance of the component and ensure the longevity of the converter.

Anodization boosts Power Brick heat transfer capability

The pleasing gold color that has made Power Brick one of the most popular lines of heat sinks for DC/DC converters stems from the anodization process that ATS uses for its heat sinks. Anodization, as noted in an earlier blog post on this site, “changes the microscopic texture of a metal, making the surface durable, corrosion- and weather-resistant.”

Surface anodization works by turning the metal into the anode (positive electrode) of an electrolytic circuit. By passing an electric current through an acidic electrolytic solution, hydrogen is released at the cathode (negative electrode) and oxygen is released at the anode. The oxygen on the surface of the metal anode forms a deposit of metal oxide of varying thickness – anywhere from 1.8-25 microns.

The previous article explained, “The advantages of surface anodizing are the dielectric isolation of the cooling components from their electronics environment, and the significant increase in their surface emissivity.”

The emissivity coefficient of an anodized surface is typically 0.83-0.86, which is a significant boost from the standard coefficient of aluminum (0.04-0.06). By increasing the emissivity of the metal, there is also a significant enhancement of the metal’s radiant heat transfer coefficient.

The eye-catching gold color of ATS Power Brick heat sinks is added during the anodization process.

maxiFLOW™ design gives Power Brick an edge

Anodization of heat sinks is a standard practice to ensure that the metal components can withstand the rigors of dissipating heat from high-powered components. The feature that gives an ATS Power Brick heat sink the significant edge on its competitors is its patented maxiFLOW™ fin geometry, which has higher thermal performance for the physical volume it occupies compared to other heat sink designs.

maxiFLOW™ design is a low-profile, spread-fin array, which offers greater surface area for convection cooling. While it offers more surface area, it does not require additional space within the electronics package. This is an important feature in today’s electronics devices, which have an ever-increasing component density and in which space is always at a premium. This is an especially important feature for designers that want to cool DC/DC converters but are limited in the amount of available room.

Independent testing at Northeastern University of various heat sink designs demonstrated that maxiFLOW™ had the lowest thermal resistance for natural and forced convection, particularly when air flow velocity was below two meters per second. For heat sinks with the same base dimensions and fin height, maxiFLOW™ performed the best.

Testing has demonstrated that maxiFLOW™ can produce 20 percent lower junction temperatures and 40 percent lower thermal resistance than other heat sink designs. Utilizing maxiFLOW™ allows ATS Power Brick heat sinks to meet the industry standard base plate temperature of 100°C.
For more information about maxiFLOW™, watch the video below:

Power Brick meets industry standards

In the DC/DC market, there are a number of standard footprints that manufacturers use to offer flexibility for designers in choosing a vendor and in laying out a PCB. ATS has addressed the industry standard footprints with its Power Brick heat sinks. This will facilitate the use of the heat sinks for thermal management.

By optimizing the thermal management and meeting industry standards, Power Brick heat sinks can provide cost savings and reduce MTBF. Rather than having to over-design a system or a layout, engineers can turn to Power Brick as a thermal solution.

It is not only the industry standard footprints that Power Brick heat sinks have matched but also the standard hole patterns, which meet the standards set by the Distributed-power Open Systems Alliance (DOSA) to make assembly easy. The three millimeter holes (and soon 3.5 mm) match up to sizes commonly used in power brick manufacturing to ensure the proper connection for the heat sink (to avoid increasing the thermal resistance) and also to avoid using additional space in the tight confines of a PCB.

For the above reasons, Power Brick heat sinks are the “gold standard” for cooling DC/DC converters. Learn more in the video below:

For more information about Advanced Thermal Solutions, Inc. thermal management consulting and design services, visit www.qats.com or contact ATS at 781.769.2800 or ats-hq@qats.com.

References

i http://uk.rs-online.com/web/generalDisplay.html?file=automation/dc-converters-overview&id=infozone
ii https://www.maximintegrated.com/en/app-notes/index.mvp/id/2031
iii https://www.qats.com/cms/2010/11/09/how-heat-sink-anondization-improves-thermal-performance-part-1-of-2/
iv https://www.qats.com/cms/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Qpedia_Oct08_How-Air-Velocity-Affects-HS-Performance.pdf