Whitaker and Webb receiving the grand prize

Students Trevor Whitaker (Ph.D.) and Branden Webb (MS) along with advisor Dr. Sameer Rao won the $25,000 grand prize at this year’s Radiance Technologies Innovation Bowl. Radiance Technologies sponsors this yearly academic competition between schools and conferences where groups compete for a single Grand Prize by developing innovative approaches to current research and development topics.

This year’s topics focused on Micro-Electronic Packaging. The three areas of interest were: novel hardware architectures for AI/ML systems enabled by advanced heterogeneous packing, methods for fast thermal evaluations of 2.5 / 3D packaging assemblies to enable parametric testing of prototype configurations, and thermal solutions to enable tighter integration of chiplets in advanced packages.

Whitaker and Webb chose to focus on the topic “Thermal solutions to enable tighter integration of chiplets in advanced packages.” They proposed the use of indirect cooling with supercritical carbon dioxide (sCO2) as a replacement for traditional coolants like water or FC-72. Experiments were conducted in an additively manufactured stainless steel microchannel cold plate. Heating was applied to the bottom surface of the cold plate to mimic realistic electronics applications, and the experimental performance of sCO2 was compared with results from numerical simulations of water and FC-72 using a pumped-cooling figure of merit.

“We found that sCO2 performs much better than anything that is currently in use,” said Webb. “Up to 70x better than using water. It’s also safer than other coolants, both for the environment and for the chips themselves.”

In spring, the team was chosen as one of three finalists and spent the semester further developing their idea. In early April, Whitaker and Webb flew to Hunstville, AL for the finals to present their design and cooling approach to Radiance. The panel of judges selected Whitaker and Webb as the winners of the award.

“Winning this award was personally very impactful,” said Whitaker. “I am passionate about the research we conduct in the Rao Lab and this recognition helps reassure me that we are making meaningful contributions to our field. It is nice to take a small step back and see that our work is appreciated.”

a) 3D printed test coupon showing different channel geometries. b) Experimental test loop. c) Schematic of microchannel cold plate. d) 3D printed test article. e) Temperature results of the numerical simulation for water.