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Thermal Management

Thermal management influences product and system reliability but some thermal management techniques can impair usability or aesthetics. It is imperative that the full design team work together to develop effective thermal management.

Thermal Challenges

It is also important to realise that some components do not perform as expected outside of typical room temperature. For example, the available capacity of some battery chemistries drops off significantly even at typical high and low temperatures experienced in a temperate climate like the UK. 

Some of these issues can be addressed with good thermal management; some might require the selection of alternative components with characteristics that meet the thermal challenges of the product.

Components are usually specified for an operating temperature range and operating outside these temperatures can degrade performance or impact reliability.

Even within their specified temperature range, sensors and other analogue components have a temperature coefficient that can often be compensated in software.

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Vacuum and low pressure enclosures

Space or any vacuum enclosure, such as inside an electron microscope, presents difficult thermal problems as heat can only be conducted and radiated.

We were responsible for designing the FPGA and associated circuitry using a radiation hardened (rad-hard) FPGA for communications satellite. This was the first time that the company who had engaged us had used a rad-hard FPGA in one of their satellite developments.

Similar problems of thermal management in electronics when operating in a vacuum exist in some laboratory equipment (e.g. some microscopes). We have successfully designed electronics to manage these environments including one for a University of Oxford spinout company.