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Keeping Smartphones Thermally Cool with Simulation

Picture of Sony phones of various color.

You can make your smartphone cool (in the fashion sense of the word) by adding a cover of your choice

This challenge is becoming increasingly difficult as shrinking smartphones continue to evolve into full-featured computers, multimedia entertainment systems and personal assistants.

Today’s smartphones can contain more than 50 power sources that generate heat. These power sources can range from a battery that supplies electricity to the system to the camera that uses this electricity to take a picture. As these components bleed heat, they add thermal power to the system.

Unfortunately, there’s no room in the phone’s thin profile for a fan to cool it down. So, how can an engineer prevent your smartphone from overheating and malfunctioning?

Qualcomm engineers use the dynamic power management system to selectively turn on and off power sources based on the temperature of the phone.

Deciding which combination of the 50-plus power sources to turn on or off at a given moment is a complex problem. The solution depends on how you are using the phone at that time. You wouldn’t want to shut down the power to the camera just before a Snapchat session.

Because the number of possible power states for a system containing numerous power sources is astronomical, Qualcomm engineers turned to simulation to help them solve this cooling challenge.

Thermal simulation of a cellphone. Qualcomm ran ANSYS Icepak simulations to get a full thermal profile of the heat flow through a smartphone in several power states — and then they paused.

Even with simulation it was going to take too long to investigate every possible combination of power states using this approach.

Instead, they designed a reduced order model (ROM) of the smartphone, and then ran the thermal simulations again using this faster simulation.

As a result, the time needed to simulate all the combinations was dramatically reduced. This made finding an optimal solution manageable.

For the full story, including a description of the physical and mathematical concepts that went into creating the ROM of a smartphone, read the ANSYS Advantage article here.

In the meantime, you can continue to make your smartphone look fashionably cooler knowing that design engineers at Qualcomm and other leading smartphone