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Rise of High-Performance TIMs in ADAS and Data Centers


Thermal Interface Materials (TIMs) come in different forms and thermal conductivities. Typical TIM forms include gap pads, thermal greases, thermally conductive adhesives (TCA), and phase change materials.

The adoption of advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS) has gained significant momentum recently. An ADAS needs a suite of electronics such as radar, LiDAR, cameras, and electronic control units (ECUs). All of these components can generate a large amount of heat and hence require efficient heat transfer. The application area of TIMs in different components can vary. For instance, TIMs are typically used between electronics and their enclosure in radars, but for LiDAR, TIMs are used in both PCBs and laser diodes.

At this stage, the choice of TIMs in ADAS sensors can vary significantly depending on their types, locations, and overall design of the unit. As ADAS sensors are typically produced at a large volume, a dispensable product (e.g., gap filler or thermal grease) is typically the best choice because this allows for automated application and assembly. As expected, the thermal conductivity of a TIM is highly related to the power of the ADAS components. The trend towards higher image quality, greater processing ability of ECUs/chips, and the increasing adoption of Gallium nitride (GaN) field-effect transistors (FETs) in laser drivers drives the growth in thermal conductivities/high-performance TIMs in many circumstances.

Similar to ADAS, TIMs in data centers are also seeing a similar trend. Over the past decade, the thermal design power (TDP) of GPUs has increased steadily, and with the increasing popularity of AI chips, cloud computing, blockchain, and crypto mining, IDTechEx believes that the power density of chips and data centers will grow fast. This leads to several trends in high-performance TIMs used in data centers.

  1. High Thermal Conductivity: TIMs with thermal conductivity greater than 5 W/mK are preferred for high-performance applications.
  2. Compatibility and Stability: Many server boards have started to incorporate cold plates; therefore, TIMs must be stable and durable under harsh conditions such as high temperatures and humidity. TIMs that can withstand temperatures of up to 200°C and have a long shelf life are preferred.
  3. Easy Application: Similar to ADAS sensors, servers are typically manufactured at a large volume. TIMs should be easy to apply or automate. Therefore, dispensable TIMs such as grease and gap fillers are commonly used for this purpose.

In conclusion, for data centers and ADAS, IDTechEx believes that high-performance TIMs are expected to be increasingly adopted to handle fast-growing power density. High-performance TIMs also indicate a high unit price, thereby driving a fast increase in total revenue. IDTechEx forecasts that the revenue of TIMs in ADAS and data centers will have a 15-fold increase from 2020 to 2033.

Since 1999 IDTechEx has provided independent market research, business intelligence and events on emerging technology to clients in over 80 countries. Our clients use our insights to help make strategic business decisions and grow their organizations. IDTechEx is headquartered in Cambridge, UK with subsidiaries in Japan, Germany and the USA.