The MTA: An Advanced and Versatile Thermal Simulator for Integrated Systems

Yi-Chung Chen, Scott Ladenheim, Milan Mihajlovic, Vasileios Pavlidis

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Fast and accurate thermal analysis is crucial for determining
the propagation of heat and tracking the formation of
hot spots in integrated circuits (ICs). Existing academic thermal
analysis tools primarily use compact models to accelerate thermal
simulations but are limited to linear problems on relatively simple
circuit geometries. The Manchester Thermal Analyzer (MTA) is
a comprehensive tool that allows for fast and highly accurate
linear and nonlinear thermal simulations of complex physical
structures including the IC, the package, and the heatsink. The
MTA is targeted for 2.5/3-D IC designs but also handles standard
planar ICs. The MTA discretizes the heat equation in space using
the finite element method and performs the time integration with
unconditionally stable implicit time stepping methods. To improve
the computational efficiency without sacrificing accuracy,
the MTA features adaptive spatiotemporal refinement. The largescale
linear systems that arise during the simulation are solved
with fast preconditioned Krylov subspace methods. The MTA
supports the thermal analysis of realistic integrated systems and
surpasses the computational abilities and performance of existing
academic thermal simulators. For example, the simulation of a
processor in a package attached to a heat sink, modeled by a
computational grid consisting of over 3 million nodes, takes less
than 3 minutes. The MTA is fully parallel and publicly available.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3123-3136
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Computer - Aided Design of Integrated Circuits and Systems
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2018


  • Adaptive spatiotemporal refinement
  • Krylov solvers
  • algebraic multigrid (AMG)
  • finite element method (FEM)
  • integrated circuits (ICs)
  • thermal analysis


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