Title:
STORAGE SYSTEM FOR COMPONENTS INCORPORATING A LIQUID-METAL THERMAL INTERFACE
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Embodiments of an apparatus that functions as a storage system for components are described. This apparatus includes a containment vessel enclosing a desiccant and a device. This device includes a layer mechanically coupled to a component, where the component can be one of a semiconductor die and a heat-removal device. Moreover, a thermal-interface material is coupled to a region of the layer, and a boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer, where a perimeter defined by the boundary-material surrounds the region.



Inventors:
Hillman, Michael D. (Los Altos, CA, US)
Tice, Gregory L. (Los Altos, CA, US)
Woo, Oscar (Santa Cruz, CA, US)
Blanco Jr., Richard Lidio (Santa Clara, CA, US)
Smith, Ronald J. (New Berlin, WI, US)
Bailey, Sean A. (Menlo Park, CA, US)
Mcdonald, Anwyl M. (Oakland, CA, US)
Anderson, Clayton R. (El Cerrito, CA, US)
Application Number:
11/954156
Publication Date:
06/11/2009
Filing Date:
12/11/2007
Assignee:
APPLE INC. (Cupertino, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
165/104.33
International Classes:
B65D85/00; F28D15/00
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20030168375Sachet constructionsSeptember, 2003Jarvis et al.
20080237082CHILD RESISTANT DEVICE FOR HOUSING BLISTER PACKSOctober, 2008Gherdan et al.
20090050501Router bit kitFebruary, 2009Serpico et al.
20070241009Golf club locking structureOctober, 2007Tan
20060251833Films for inflatable cushionsNovember, 2006Gavin et al.
20080083642Protective mat and tray for cosmeticsApril, 2008Howard
20090218252ATTACHMENT GUIDE COMB ORGANIZERSeptember, 2009Michel
20090250359BONE FILLER PACKING CONTAINER HAVING FUNCTION AS MIXING TRAYOctober, 2009Chae et al.
20040245122Coin holderDecember, 2004Newenham
20070045154Package that provides immediate accessMarch, 2007Gelardi et al.
20080190789Air Freshener PackageAugust, 2008D'amico et al.



Primary Examiner:
KLEIN, JORDAN M
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Park Vaughan Fleming -- APPLE INC. (DAVIS, CA, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. An apparatus, comprising: a containment vessel enclosing a desiccant and a device, wherein the device includes: a layer mechanically coupled to a component, wherein the component can be one of a semiconductor die and a heat-removal device; a thermal-interface material coupled to a region of the layer; and a boundary material mechanically coupled to the layer, wherein a perimeter defined by the boundary-material surrounds the region.

2. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising an exterior containment vessel enclosing the containment vessel.

3. The apparatus of claim 1, further comprising another desiccant within the exterior containment vessel but outside of the containment vessel.

4. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the thermal-interface material includes a material that is a liquid metal over a range of operating temperatures of the semiconductor die.

5. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material.

6. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the material includes a metal.

7. The apparatus of claim 5, wherein the material includes nickel, a nickel alloy, or stainless steel.

8. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein at least one of the layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that has a permeability for water that is less than a pre-determined value.

9. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the layer is deposited or adhered onto the component.

10. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer by grease.

11. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the semiconductor die includes a processor.

12. The apparatus of claim 1, wherein the thermal-interface material includes a gallium-indium-tin alloy.

13. An apparatus, comprising: a layer mechanically coupled to a component, wherein the component can be one of a semiconductor die and a heat-removal device; another layer mechanically coupled to another component; a thermal-interface material between the component and the other component, wherein the thermal-interface material is mechanically coupled to a region of the layer and to a region of the other layer; and a boundary material mechanically coupled to the layer and the other layer, wherein the thermal-interface material is contained in a cavity defined, at least in part, by the layer, the boundary material, and the other layer.

14. The apparatus of claim 13, further comprising a desiccant within the cavity.

15. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the thermal-interface material includes a material that is a liquid metal over a range of operating temperatures of the semiconductor die.

16. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein at least one of the layer, the other layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material.

17. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the material includes a metal.

18. The apparatus of claim 16, wherein the material includes nickel, a nickel alloy, or stainless steel.

19. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein at least one of the layer, the other layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that has a permeability for water that is less than a pre-determined value.

20. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the layer is deposited or adhered onto the component.

21. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer and the other layer by grease.

22. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the semiconductor die includes a processor.

23. The apparatus of claim 13, wherein the thermal-interface material includes a gallium-indium-tin alloy.

24. The apparatus of claim 13, further comprising: a containment vessel enclosing the apparatus; and a desiccant within the containment vessel.

Description:

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to system for storing and protecting components. More specifically, the present invention relates to a system for storing and protecting components that includes a liquid-metal thermal-interface material.

2. Related Art

The functionality, performance, and operating speed of integrated circuits (ICs) have increased significantly in recent years. This has resulted in significantly increased power consumption and associated heat generation in these devices. Consequently, it is becoming a considerable challenge to maintain acceptable internal and external operating temperatures in these ICs.

One approach to managing the increasing thermal load is to use an improved thermal-interface material between a semiconductor die in an IC and an external environment (such as the IC package). Proper operation of the semiconductor die over a range of operating conditions determines several required properties for a candidate thermal-interface material. In particular, the thermal-interface material should not contain impurities and should not damage the semiconductor die. Moreover, the thermal-interface material should have a high bulk thermal conductivity and should conform to a surface of the semiconductor die at ambient or low pressure, thereby ensuring a low thermal impedance between the external environment and the semiconductor die.

Several liquid metals are promising candidates as improved thermal-interface materials. In principle, these liquid metals can provide the required properties, if the liquid metals are dispensed in a controlled manner. However, it is often difficult to work with liquid metals. For example, liquid metals do not wet with many materials. Consequently, it may be difficult to fabricate a thin layer of liquid metal that conforms to the surface of the semiconductor die. Moreover, many liquid metals are highly corrosive and/or dissolve other metals, which makes them extremely difficult to handle during manufacturing, thereby increasing the complexity and the cost of the manufacturing processes, which may prevent the use of these improved thermal-interface materials.

Hence what is needed are techniques for handling and protecting components that include liquid metals without the problems listed above.

SUMMARY

One embodiment of the present invention provides an apparatus that includes a containment vessel enclosing a desiccant and a device. This device includes a layer mechanically coupled to a component, where the component can be one of a semiconductor die and a heat-removal device. Moreover, a thermal-interface material is coupled to a region of the layer, and a boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer, where a perimeter defined by the boundary-material surrounds the region.

In some embodiments, the apparatus includes an exterior containment vessel enclosing the containment vessel. Moreover, another desiccant may be included within the exterior containment vessel but outside of the containment vessel.

In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material includes a material that is a liquid metal over a range of operating temperatures of the semiconductor die.

In some embodiments, at least one of the layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material. For example, the material may include a metal, such as nickel, a nickel alloy, and/or stainless steel. Moreover, at least one of the layer and the inner surface of the boundary material may include a material which has a water permeability that is less than a pre-determined value.

In some embodiments, the layer is deposited and/or adhered onto the component.

In some embodiments, the boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer by grease.

In some embodiments, the semiconductor die includes a processor.

In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material includes a gallium-indium-tin alloy.

Another embodiment of the present invention provides another apparatus that includes a layer mechanically coupled to a component, and another layer mechanically coupled to another component. Note that the component can be one of a semiconductor die and a heat-removal device, and the other component can be a dummy component. Moreover, a thermal-interface material resides between the component and the other component, where the thermal-interface material is mechanically coupled to a region of the layer and to a region of the other layer. Additionally, a boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer and the other layer, where the thermal-interface material is contained in a cavity defined, at least in part, by the layer, the boundary material, and the other layer.

In some embodiments, a desiccant is included within the cavity.

In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material includes a material that is a liquid metal over a range of operating temperatures of the semiconductor die.

In some embodiments, at least one of the layer, the other layer and an inner surface of the boundary material includes a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material. For example, the material may include a metal, such as nickel, a nickel alloy, and/or stainless steel. Moreover, at least one of the layer, the other layer and an inner surface of the boundary material may include a material which has a permeability for water that is less than a pre-determined value.

In some embodiments, the layer is deposited and/or adhered onto the component.

In some embodiments, the boundary material is mechanically coupled to the layer and the other layer by grease.

In some embodiments, the semiconductor die includes a processor.

In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material includes a gallium-indium-tin alloy.

In some embodiments, the other apparatus includes a containment vessel enclosing the apparatus and another desiccant within the containment vessel.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE FIGURES

FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating a chip package in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2A is a block diagram illustrating a portion of a process for applying a thermal-interface material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2B is a block diagram illustrating a portion of a process for applying a thermal-interface material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2C is a block diagram illustrating a portion of a process for applying a thermal-interface material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 2D is a block diagram illustrating a portion of a process for applying a thermal-interface material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating a mask for use during a process for applying a thermal-interface material in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating a chip package in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5A is a block diagram illustrating a storage system for components that incorporate a liquid metal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5B is a block diagram illustrating a storage system for components that incorporate a liquid metal in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

Note that like reference numerals refer to corresponding parts throughout the drawings.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

The following description is presented to enable any person skilled in the art to make and use the invention, and is provided in the context of a particular application and its requirements. Various modifications to the disclosed embodiments will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art, and the general principles defined herein may be applied to other embodiments and applications without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Thus, the present invention is not intended to be limited to the embodiments shown, but is to be accorded the widest scope consistent with the principles and features disclosed herein.

Embodiments of an apparatus that includes a thermal-interface material are described. This apparatus may be assembled during a manufacturing or fabrication process. During the process, surfaces on one or more components in the apparatus, such as a heat-removal device and/or one or more semiconductor dies, may be prepared, for example, by depositing one or more layers and/or by adhering one or more films to these surfaces. These layers and/or films may include materials that are compatible with the thermal-interface material. In particular, the materials may have properties that prevent the thermal-interface material from damaging the components and which facilitate a low thermal boundary impedance between the thermal-interface material and a given surface. For example, one of the materials may be substantially insoluble in the thermal-interface material and another of the materials may wet the thermal-interface material.

Next, one or more regions may be defined on one or more of the surfaces, for example, by adhering a mask (such as a contact mask) onto the given surface. Then, the thermal-interface material may be applied, for example, by using a spray-coating technique.

Note that the one or more semiconductor dies may include a processor, and the heat-removal device may include: a heat sink (which may be made of a metal such as copper), a Peltier device, a liquid-cooled cold plate, and/or a thermal reservoir. Moreover, the thermal interface may include a metal in a liquid state (or more generally, a metal alloy) as a thermal-interface material. This metal or metal alloy (henceforth referred to as a liquid metal) may have a low melting point (such as below room temperature or 25 C). More generally, the liquid metal has a melting point which is below an operating temperature of the semiconductor die.

In an exemplary embodiment, the liquid metal includes gallium, indium, and tin. Note that the liquid metal may also include elements other than metals, such as diamond or graphite.

Moreover, during assembly of the apparatus a boundary material (such as a metal-coated gasket) may be mechanically coupled and/or chemically coupled to the semiconductor die and the heat-removal device, thereby defining a cavity that includes the thermal-interface material. When assembled, the thermal-interface material may be mechanically coupled and/or chemically coupled to regions in layers or films on the semiconductor die and the heat-removal device, which may include at least one of the previously described materials or another material. For example, these layers may include a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material and/or a material which has a permeability for water that is less than a pre-determined value.

In some embodiments, the boundary material is mechanically coupled and/or chemically coupled to the semiconductor die and the heat-removal device by grease. Moreover, the apparatus may include a desiccant in the cavity.

In some embodiments, a service kit is used to store and protect components, such as the semiconductor die and/or the heat-removal device, after an intermediate operation during the assembly process (such as after the thermal-interface material is applied). This service kit may include one or more containment vessels (such as an internal containment vessel and an external containment vessel), each of which may include a desiccant. For example, the semiconductor die, thermal-interface material and the boundary material may be contained within the one or more containment vessels. Moreover, a dummy layer may be coupled to the boundary material to complete the cavity surrounding the thermal-interface material within the internal containment vessel.

In the discussion that follows, a semiconductor die is understood to include: a bare die, a packaged die, multiple die, and/or two or more die in a single package (which is sometimes referred to as a multi-chip module).

By including the boundary material and thus defining the cavity, which isolates or contains the liquid metal and protect the liquid metal from contamination, the apparatus may facilitate the use of the liquid metal as a thermal-interface material. Moreover, the liquid metal may improve thermal coupling between the heat-removal device and the one or more semiconductor dies. In particular, the liquid metal may facilitate a low thermal impedance between the one or more semiconductor dies and the heat-removal device. In an exemplary embodiment, the liquid metal has a bulk thermal conductivity between 7 and 100 W/mK. Furthermore, the thermal impedance may be low even when the semiconductor dies have different thicknesses or if surfaces of two semiconductor dies that are in contact with the liquid metal are in different planes.

This improved thermal coupling may facilitate operation of the semiconductor die at elevated temperatures and/or high power. Moreover, the liquid metal may facilitate improved thermal coupling at ambient or at low pressures (i.e., pressures below atmospheric pressure), thereby simplifying and reducing the cost of a chip package (such as the apparatus) that includes the one or more semiconductor dies. In some embodiments, the liquid metal does not form a permanent bond with the one or more semiconductor dies, thus allowing the chip package to be reworked.

Consequently, the apparatus (and the process) described below facilitate the use of liquid metal as the thermal-interface material, and thus, the operation of the one or more semiconductor dies at high thermal loads. Moreover, by using the apparatus and/or the process, the liquid metal can be dispensed and contained in a controlled manner, without damaging the components, and without increasing the complexity and/or the cost associated with manufacturing the chip package.

We now describe embodiments of an apparatus that includes a thermal-interface material. FIG. 1 presents a block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a chip package 100. This chip package includes at least one semiconductor die, such as semiconductor die 110, and a heat-removal device 112. During operation of the chip package 100, heat is generated by electrical circuits and/or components on the semiconductor die 110. To improve the thermal coupling between the heat-removal device 112 and the semiconductor die 110 (and thus, to improve the transport of heat from the semiconductor die 110 to the heat-removal device 112) a thermal interface including a thermal-interface material 114 having a thickness 116 may be included between a surface of the semiconductor die 110 and a surface of the heat-removal device 112. In an exemplary embodiment, the thickness 116 is between 1-150 μm at atmospheric pressure or at a contact pressure of 5 psi.

As noted previously and discussed further below, the thermal-interface material 114 may be a liquid (i.e., a material without shear strength) at room temperature and/or an operating temperature (such as 80, 100, or 125 C) of the semiconductor die 110. Consequently, a gasket 118 may be mechanically coupled and/or chemically coupled to the semiconductor die 110 and the heat-removal device 112 in the chip package 100, both to contain the liquid thermal-interface material 114 and to protect it from contamination. Note that there may be a void (indicated by the hatched region) between the thermal-interface material 114 and the gasket 118.

In principle, a wide variety of thermal-interface materials may be used to provide the thermal interface. However, many existing thermal-interface materials have melting points above room temperature. Note that existing thermal-interface materials include: conventional heat-sink grease (such as silicone-based grease), thermally conductive pads, phase-change materials (such as wax-based materials), heat-transfer fluids (such as ethylene glycol or propylene glycol), water, or thermally conductive solders (such as commercially pure indium). As discussed below, low-melting point metal alloys (such as a liquid metal that has a melting-point below room temperature or 25 C) have superior physical properties that may facilitate improved operation of the one or more semiconductor dies.

In particular, the physical properties of these metal alloys enable them to conform to the surfaces of the one or more semiconductor dies, even if the semiconductor dies have different thicknesses and/or have surfaces that are not coplanar. Consequently, thermal boundary resistances associated with low-melting point metal alloys may be small.

Moreover, low-melting point metal alloys have high bulk thermal conductivities, which, in conjunction with the low boundary resistances, may result in a low thermal resistance between the semiconductor die 110 and the heat-removal device 112. In turn, a low thermal resistance may reduce the sensitivity to changes in the thickness 116 of the thermal-interface material 114 (which is also referred to as a bond-line thickness). For example, the thermal-interface material 114 may have a bulk thermal conductivity between 7 and 100 W/mK and the thermal resistance of the thermal interface may be less than 0.2 K/W. Consequently, a thermal difference or gradient ΔT between the semiconductor die 110 and the heat-removal device 112 may be significantly reduced or eliminated relative to the thermal gradient associated with other thermal-interface materials. Furthermore, because the metal alloys are already liquid at the operating temperatures of the one or more semiconductor dies, the thermal-interface material 114 will not be near a critical thermal breakdown temperature.

In some embodiments, the liquid metal is configured such that a permanent chemical bond does not occur with the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 112. This property facilitates easier cleaning of these components (for example, using a vacuum, a mechanical wipe, and/or a cleaning agent, such as acetone and/or isopropyl alcohol) and/or rework of the chip package 100.

In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material 114 in the thermal interfaces includes: bismuth, lead, zinc, sliver, gold, tin, chromium, nickel, aluminum, palladium, platinum, tantalum, gallium, indium, and/or titanium. For example, the thermal-interface material 114 may include metallic particles of one or more of the preceding materials. In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material 114 is an alloy that includes 1, 2, 3, or more metal elements. In some embodiments, the thermal-interface material 114 is a eutectic material. Moreover, in some embodiments the liquid metal may be doped with other materials, such as diamond and/or graphite. These materials may increase or enhance interfacial adhesion between the liquid metal and the semiconductor die 110 and the heat-removal device 112. In general, the liquid metal may include a variety of organic and/or inorganic compounds.

In an exemplary embodiment, the liquid metal is an alloy that includes gallium, indium, and tin (or a similar density liquid metal). This alloy can be formulated in a variety of compositions, including eutectic gallium-indium-tin alloy (62.5% gallium, 21.5% indium, and 16.0% tin) with a melting point of 10.7 C and Galinstan™ (68.5% gallium, 21.5% indium, and 10.0% tin) with a melting point of around 22 C. In some embodiments, the gallium-indium-tin alloy includes between 55-75% gallium, 15-25% indium, and 5-20% tin. In another embodiment, the thermal-interface material 114 includes 75.5% gallium and 15.7% indium, with a melting temperature of 15.7 C, or 62.5% gallium, 21.5% indium, and 10.7% tin, with a melting temperature of 10.7 C.

Note that in some embodiments chip package 100 includes fewer or additional components. Moreover, two or more components are combined into a single component, and/or a position of one or more components may be changed.

We now discuss embodiments of a method for applying a thermal-interface material, such as the thermal-interface material 114, to one or more surfaces of the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 112. FIG. 2A presents a block diagram 200 illustrating an embodiment of a portion of a process for applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). During this process, one or more semiconductor dies, such as semiconductor die 110, and/or heat-removal device 112 may be attached to one or more carriers, such as carrier 210. This carrier facilitates transportation of the components during the manufacturing process and protects the components from corrosion by the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1).

Moreover, the carrier 210 may allow the tooling in the remainder of the process to be common, i.e., to be used with any of the components. While not shown, the carrier 210 may include alignment features, which may be used to position one or more masks relative to the components (as discussed further below with reference to FIGS. 2B and 2C). In some embodiments, a surface 212 of the carrier 210 is coplanar with surfaces 214 of the components that will be coated with the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1).

Carrier 210 may include a material that resists corrosion by the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). In some embodiments, the carrier 210 includes: stainless steel, steel, polycarbonate, and/or a chemically inert material.

In order to achieve uniform and complete coverage of the desired portions of the surfaces 214, either or both of these surfaces may be prepared by plating an initial layer onto these surfaces 214. For example, a nickel-copper layer may be plated onto the semiconductor die.

Then, one or more additional layers or films may be deposited and/or adhered to either or both of the surfaces 214. This is shown in FIG. 2B, which presents a block diagram 220 illustrating an embodiment of a portion of a process for applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). In particular, a layer including an insoluble material 230 that will not dissolve in the presence of the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) may be deposited and another layer that includes a wetting material 234 (i.e., a material that will wet with the thermal-interface material 114 in FIG. 1) may be deposited above the layer. In some embodiments, yet another layer that includes an optional inter-metallic compound 232 may be deposited between these layers.

In general, the layers shown in block diagram 220 include a metal (or more generally, a metal alloy), such as gold, platinum, tantalum, titanium, tin, chromium, nickel, zinc, silver, and/or aluminum. Moreover, in some embodiments the layers may include an adhesion promoter, such as an RCA-1 surface preparation and/or a silated promoter.

In an exemplary embodiment, the insoluble material 230 includes titanium, the wetting material 234 includes gold, and the optional inter-metallic compound 232 includes a gold-titanium alloy. Moreover, a thickness of the layer of insoluble material 230 may be 300 nm, a thickness of the layer of wetting material 234 may be between 10-300 nm, and a thickness of the layer of optional inter-metallic compound 232 maybe less than 100 nm.

Note that a variety of techniques may be used to deposit these layers, including: plating, evaporation, and/or sputtering. Moreover, prior to this operation the underlying surface may be intentionally roughened (for example, using electromechanical polishing) to promote adhesion.

In an exemplary embodiment, deposition of the insoluble material 230, the wetting material 234, and/or the optional inter-metallic compound 232 includes sputtering. Regions on the surfaces 214 (FIG. 2A) that are to be coated may be defined using a shadow mask. This mask may have an edge tolerance of 0.5 mm.

However, in other embodiments at least some of the layers may be adhered instead of deposited onto the surfaces 214 (FIG. 2A). For example, a pre-existing titanium film on a polymer backing may be applied and adhered to the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 212 using epoxy or a resin cement, such as M-bond from Tokuyama America, Inc., in Burlingame, Calif. In some embodiments, these films may be carefully pressed on, for example, using a backing and low pressure.

After the one or more layers have been deposited and/or adhered to the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 212, the resulting surfaces may be burnished or polished to reduced roughness. Moreover, these surfaces may be cleaned using chemicals, such as acetone and/or isopropyl alcohol.

Next, regions where the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is to be applied may be defined by adhering one or more masks (such as a contact mask) onto the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 212. This is shown in FIG. 2C, which presents a block diagram 240 illustrating an embodiment of a portion of a process for applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). In particular, mask 254 may be adhered to a surface 252 of a component 250 (such as the semiconductor die 110 or the heat-removal device 212 in FIG. 2B) and/or the carrier 210, thereby creating a bridge between the component 250 and the carrier 210, which may help hold the component 250 to the carrier 210. This mask 254 may limit an area or region 258 where the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is applied (as discussed further below with reference to FIG. 2D). As noted previously, the position of the mask 254 may, at least in part, be determined by alignment features on the carrier 210.

In an exemplary embodiment, mask 254 includes a multi-layer structure. This is shown in FIG. 3, which presents a block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a mask 300 for use during a process for applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). This mask includes layers with non-adhesive material 310 (such as paper and/or Mylar®) sandwiching an adhesive material 312 (such as a rubber-based adhesive and/or an acrylic-based adhesive). In some embodiments, the non-adhesive material 310 includes: 3M 7731FL, 3M FP024502, 3M 7113, 3M 7816, 3M 76999, 3M 7812, and/or 3M 7600 (from 3M Corporation, in St. Paul, Minn.) Alternatively, the non-adhesive material 310 may include: Bay Area Labels (BAL) 9415 A-10, BAL K22, BAL V23, BAL KX04, BAL P66, BAL P07, BAL K10-8, BAL K47, BAL P05, BAL K72-8, BAL M81-1.5, BAL P03, BAL K85, and/or BAL V86-4 (from Bay Area Labels, Inc., in San Jose, Calif.).

Adhesive material 312 may form a temporary or a permanent bond, and may have a high pull strength or a low pull strength. In general, the adhesive material 312 is chosen so that it does not leave a residue on the surface 252 (FIG. 2C) and will not to disturb thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) when the mask 300 is removed. Moreover, gaps may be defined in at least one of the layers in the mask 300, leaving exposed regions, such as exposed region 314. These exposed regions of adhesive may adhere to the carrier 210 (FIG. 2C) and/or the component 250 (FIG. 2C).

Referring back to FIG. 2C, the geometry of the exposed regions may be selected so that the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) does not leak under the mask 254 and so that the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is not moved or disturbed when the mask 254 is removed after the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is applied (which is discussed below with reference to FIG. 2D). In some embodiments, a tamp-down fixture, such as a gasket, is used to push down on the adhesive in the exposed regions with a uniform pressure, thereby properly adhering the mask 254 to the carrier 210 and/or the component 250.

In some embodiments, a region, such as corner region 256, of the mask 254 may have more exposed regions, i.e., more adhesion between the adhesive material 312 (FIG. 3) and the component 250. This may reduce or eliminate disturbance of the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) when the mask 254 is subsequently removed.

Having prepared the surfaces 214 (FIG. 2A) and defined regions, such as region 258, the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) may be applied to the semiconductor die 110 (FIG. 2B) and/or the heat-removal device 112 (FIG. 2B). This is shown in FIG. 2D, which presents a block diagram 270 illustrating an embodiment of a portion of a process for applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). During this portion of the process, one or more carriers and/or components (such as the semiconductor die 110 and/or the heat-removal device 112 in FIG. 2B) may be placed into a containment box (not shown). In conjunction with the mask 254 (FIG. 2C), this containment box protects corrosion-sensitive contact pads on the components from exposure to the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). In particular, only the mask 254 (FIG. 2C) and regions, such as region 258 (FIG. 2C), are exposed, and the mask 254 (FIG. 2C) may ensure that the applied thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is confined to these regions. In an exemplary embodiment, the containment box includes stainless steel, steel, and/or nickel. Moreover, in some embodiments the containment box includes an integrated fluid recovery system (to recycle excess material) and/or replaceable gaskets.

As discussed previously, the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) applied may be a metal alloy, such as a gallium-indium-tin eutectic. Component materials in this metal alloy may have a purity of 99.99% or better. These component materials may be mixed at 150 C with a composition tolerance of 0.5%. Note that the component materials may be obtained from a variety of suppliers, including Alfa Acsar, Inc., in Ward Hill, Mass. Alternatively, the metal alloy may be purchased pre-mixed from suppliers, such as AIM Specialty Alloys, Inc., in Cranston, R.I.

In order to obtain the desired physical properties, the applied thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) should be thin (with a thickness 116 in FIG. 1 between 1-150 μm), and should uniformly and completely cover the regions, such as the region 258 (FIG. 2C). Moreover, in order to reduce the manufacturing cost, the process of applying the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) should avoid waste (for example, by not applying excess material) and should offer high volume and high yield.

However, many liquid metals tend to bead on many surfaces. To avoid this, an atomization process may be used to provide energy to initiate wetting with the surfaces 214 (FIG. 2A) of the component 250. As shown in block diagram 270, nozzle 280 provides a spray 282 that spray coats the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) onto the regions (such as region 258 in FIG. 2C) defined by the mask 254. In some embodiments, a raster pattern (which includes a sequence of parallel deposition paths) is used to reduce or minimize the amount of the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) used and to obtain a uniform coverage.

During application of the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1), the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) may be injected into a deposition chamber through an extended spray valve using a cartridge and a pressure between 8-12 psi. This cartridge may have a threaded connector to couple to the deposition chamber and may include a dual plunger to prevent leakage. In some embodiments, the cartridge includes a material resistant to corrosion, such as high-density polyethylene, stainless steel, and/or nickel. Moreover, the spray valve may utilize a design described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,523,757, entitled “Compact Spray Valve,” the contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.

As the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is pushed through the spray valve, a sequence of bubbles are formed. An atomizing gas strikes these bubbles, blowing them apart and atomizing the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) and producing the spray 282. In an exemplary embodiment, the nozzle 280 is 8-10 mm from the component 250 and the cartridge and spray valve are heated to 35-40 C. Moreover, the atomizing gas may nitrogen with a pressure between 10-13 psi, the raster speed may be between 100-200 mm/s, and the deposition rate may be 12 mg/s.

Note that the amount of material applied may be monitored to ensure proper coverage and to prevent overflow. In some embodiments, this monitoring includes visual inspection (for example, looking for pin holes and/or determining the transparency of the film) and/or weighing the applied thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1). In an exemplary embodiment, 50 mg of liquid metal are applied to the surface of a given component, such as the component 250.

While spray coating has been described as an illustrative example, in other embodiments other techniques may be used separately or in conjunction with spray coating, including print-head technology and/or silk screening. Moreover, a variety of techniques may be used to spread the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) and improve the uniformity of the thickness 116 (FIG. 1), including: angular acceleration (for example, by spinning the component 250), magnetic hydrodynamics (where current in the thermal-interface material 114 in FIG. 1 generates a magnetic field that propels it in the region 258 in FIG. 2C), ultrasound, and/or mechanical vibration. In some embodiments, an integrated sonicator, which floats on the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) during or after deposition, is used to improve the uniformity of the thickness 116 (FIG. 1). In other embodiments, the thermal-interface material 114 (FIG. 1) is applied as a solid, which becomes a liquid at an operating temperature of the semiconductor die 110 (FIG. 1).

Note that in some embodiments block diagrams 200 (FIG. 2A), 220 (FIG. 2B), 240 (FIG. 2C), and/or 270, as well as mask 300 (FIG. 3), include fewer or additional components. Moreover, two or more components are combined into a single component, and/or a position of one or more components may be changed.

After the thermal-interface material is applied, mask 254 (FIG. 2D) may be removed. Next, the semiconductor die 110 (FIG. 2B) and the heat-removal device 112 (FIG. 2B) may be assembled with a boundary material (such as a gasket) in a chip package, such as the chip package 110 (FIG. 1). In particular, grease, such as Krytox® (from DuPont™, in Wilmington, Del.), may be applied to the heat-removal device 112 (FIG. 2B), and a gasket may be picked and placed onto the heat-removal device 112 (FIG. 2B). Then, grease may be applied to the top of the gasket, and the semiconductor die 110 (FIG. 2B) may be picked and placed onto the gasket. Note that placement may be based on optical and/or mechanical alignment features, such as pins and/or holes. In some embodiments, blue light is used to enhance contrast during assembly of the chip package.

FIG. 4 presents a block diagram illustrating an embodiment of a resulting chip package 400. In this chip package, the thermal-interface material 114 may be contained within a cavity defined, at least in part, by gasket 118 and layers 410, such as one or more of the layers illustrated in FIG. 2B. In some embodiments, inner surfaces of this cavity may include a material that is resistant to corrosion by the thermal-interface material 114 and/or which has a permeability for water that is less than a pre-determined value, such that a water-vapor transmission ratio of the cavity is 10 μg/hr. For example, the material may include a metal, such as nickel, a nickel alloy, and/or stainless steel.

Consequently, gasket 118 may include a metal coating on an inner surface. For example, gasket 118 may be a stamped metal or a metal-coated plastic. In some embodiments, a tire-style gasket is used to increase an overflow volume. Moreover, the gasket 118 may have a flat surface that facilitates less stringent manufacturing and/or assembly tolerances.

In some embodiments, the cavity includes one or more desiccants 414 to further protect the thermal-interface material 114 from water. This desiccant may include: type 3A, type 4A, type 7A, an alumina-silica desiccant, and/or a molecular-sieve desiccant. In some embodiments, desiccant 414 is rechargeable. For example, desiccant 414 may include silicon rubber and a molecular sieve.

In some embodiments, the chip package 400 includes one or more optional mechanical coupling elements 416 (such as screws or springs) that are mechanically coupled to the heat-removal device 112. These optional mechanical coupling elements 416 may couple the heat-removal device 112 to another component. For example, the other component may include a motherboard, a chassis, and/or a processor in a computer.

Note that in some embodiments chip package 400 includes fewer or additional components. Moreover, two or more components are combined into a single component, and/or a position of one or more components may be changed.

In some embodiment, assembly of the chip module 400 occurs over a time interval. For example, application of the thermal-interface material 114 to the semiconductor die 110 may occur at a different time that application of the thermal-interface material 114 to the heat-removal device 112. Moreover, these components may be processed on separate fabrication lines and/or at different locations.

Consequently, there may be a need to store and protect components that include the thermal-interface material 114 (for example, from water vapor) until the assembly of the chip-module 400 is completed. This may be accomplished using a service kit, such as the storage system 500 illustrated in FIG. 5A. This storage system includes one or more containment vessels 514 surrounding a component 510, such as the semiconductor die 410 (FIG. 4) or the heat-removal device 412 (FIG. 4), after the thermal-interface material 114 has been applied. These containment vessels 514 may have a low permeability for water. For example, a given containment vessel, such as containment vessel 514-1, may include a metal-coated plastic bag. Moreover, the protection from water vapor may be increased by including optional desiccants 516 in each of the containment vessels 514.

Note that containment vessels 514 effectively complete the cavity surrounding the thermal-interface material 114. However, in other embodiments a dummy component is used to temporarily complete the cavity until the assembly process with the remaining real components is completed. This is shown in FIG. 5B, which presents a block diagram illustrating a storage system 530 for components that incorporate a liquid metal. In particular, dummy component 512 is coupled to gasket 118 by grease 412.

In an exemplary embodiment, two metal-coated plastic containment vessels 514 are used to store and protect the component 510. These plastic containment vessels may be anti-static and the metal coating may have a thickness of at least 25 μm. Moreover, optional desiccant 516-1 may weigh 5 g and optional desiccant 516-2 may weigh 20 g. These desiccants may be a type 4A molecular sieve and/or a silica desiccant. In some embodiments, the containment vessels 514 are vacuum packed.

Note that in some embodiments storage systems 500 (FIG. 5A) and/or 530 may include fewer or additional components. For example, the cavity in storage system 530 may include desiccants, such as desiccants 414 (FIG. 4). Moreover, additional containment vessels, surrounding containment vessels 514, may be used. Moreover, two or more components are combined into a single component, and/or a position of one or more components may be changed.

The foregoing descriptions of embodiments of the present invention have been presented for purposes of illustration and description only. They are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the present invention to the forms disclosed. Accordingly, many modifications and variations will be apparent to practitioners skilled in the art. Additionally, the above disclosure is not intended to limit the present invention. The scope of the present invention is defined by the appended claims.