Keeping components cool

IECQ ensures safety and reliability of all electronic components

By Claire Marchand

Invisible yet omnipresent, electronic components play a crucial role in modern technology. Found in parts as diverse as integrated circuits to resistors, capacitors, transistors, LEDs (light-emitting diodes) and switches, they are an essential part of all electrical and electronic devices, equipment and installations, including the heating and cooling systems that form the topic of this month’s e-tech.

A fan-cooled heat sink on the processor of a personal computer (Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos) A fan-cooled heat sink on the processor of a personal computer (Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)

While they are key parts of systems such as those that control and regulate heating and cooling in buildings, for example, electronic components are not themselves immune to overheating. They therefore require their own cooling systems in case of overheating, to prevent temporary malfunction or even permanent failure occurring.

Preventing overheating

Computer cooling removes the waste heat produced by computer components and keeps these components within permissible operating temperature limits. Such components include integrated circuits such as CPUs (central processing units) and GPUs (graphics processing units), chipsets and hard disk drives.
Today, most electronic components are designed to generate as little heat as possible. Computers and operating systems may be designed to reduce power consumption – and consequent heating – according to workload. This is not in itself sufficient to prevent electronic components from overheating. Specific cooling systems are also needed to remove excessive heat.

Heat sinks

As electronic devices become smaller, the problem of dispersing waste heat becomes more difficult. In electronic systems, heat sinks are passive components that cool devices by dissipating heat into the surrounding air. They are used to cool high-power semiconductor devices, CPUs or graphic processors. They are also employed in optoelectronic devices such as lasers and LEDs (light-emitting diodes). They are heat exchangers that, although smaller, can be compared to those used in refrigeration and air conditioning systems or to radiators in automobiles.

High quality required

As with any other electronic component, a heat sink has to go through a battery of tests before it hits the market, to ensure that it complies with specific requirements. One single faulty component can have unfortunate consequences: from the malfunctioning of a device, system or installation to causing total failure, or, even worse, to putting human lives at risk.

Safety inside

Electronic component manufacturers and suppliers all over the world have a powerful tool at their disposal, enabling their products to meet the strictest requirements: IECQ testing and certification. IECQ is the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components.

As a worldwide approval and certification system covering the supply of electronic components, assemblies and associated materials and processes, IECQ provides a certification system that enables manufacturers and suppliers to provide independent verification that the claimed specifications (including International IEC standards) are met. This gives end manufacturers the reassurance of knowing that suppliers holding IECQ certification do not need stringent second party assessment or monitoring.

Covering a vast array of technologies

Electronic components and processes covered by IECQ are used in all kinds of technologies, from the smallest device to the most complex piece of equipment. At present, eight families of components are certified by IECQ:

  •  active components, including integrated circuits
  •  electromagnetic components
  •  electromechanical components
  •  electro-optic components
  •  hybrid integrated circuits
  •  passive components
  •  printed boards
  •  wires and cables

IECQ’s contribution to the existence of a safer and more reliable world can only increase, given the development of new technologies and state-of-the-art electronic devices.

A fan-cooled heat sink on the processor of a personal computer (Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos) A fan-cooled heat sink on the processor of a personal computer (Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos)
Pin fin heat sink with a z-clip Pin fin heat sink with a z-clip
Heat pipes on a graphics board Heat pipes on a graphics board