The increasing trend in power levels and associated densities leads to the need of design thermal optimization, either at the module level or at the system (module-board stack-up) level. The wireless communication industry is facing multiple challenges as it tries to promote smaller, faster and cost-effective packages, yet trying to cope with potential thermal bottlenecks. The present study investigates a family of packages, whose thermal and electrical performances are far superior to the classic (standard) packages. A three-dimensional conjugate numerical study was conducted to evaluate the thermal performance of gallium arsenic die packaged in quad flat no-lead (QFN) packages for various wireless and networking applications. Two different QFN packages are investigated: a standard package and a power package (PQFN) with thicker leadframe and solder die attach. The thermal impact of die attach material, leadframe thickness, die pad size, and board structure is evaluated and provides valuable information for product designers. Two powering scenarios are investigated: (1) one for standard operating parameters and (2) an alternative for extreme operating powering scenarios. Results indicate that the peak temperature reached on the die for 3×3 mm QFN under normal powering conditions is ∼138.5 °C (or 119 °C/W junction-to-air thermal resistance), while for the extreme scenario, the junction temperature is ∼186 °C (or 125 °C/W junction-to-air thermal resistance). In both cases, the top Au metal layer has a limited impact on lateral heat spreading. Under extreme powering conditions, the 5×5 mm PQFN package reaches a peak temperature of ∼126 °C (66 °C/W thermal resistance). A ∼32% reduction in peak temperature is achieved with the 5×5 PQFN package. The improvement is mainly due to the larger package size, high conductivity die attach material, thicker leadframe, and additional board thermal vias. A parametric study shows that the increase in leadframe thickness from 0.2 mm (8 mils) to 0.5 mm (20 mils) in the QFN package will lead to only 3% reduction in peak temperature. By comparison, for both packages, the die attach material (conductive epoxy versus solder) will have a significant impact on the overall reduction in peak temperature (∼12%). Experimental measurements using an infrared microscope are performed to validate the numerical results. The results indicate good agreement (∼6% discrepancy) between the numerical model and the measurement.

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