Given the fast pace of research, very few scientific studies stand the test of time. Even rarer is a study that continues to influence research a decade after its first publication. That distinction goes to “3D-ICE: Fast Compact Transient Thermal Modeling for 3D ICs with Inter-Tier Liquid Cooling,” a paper presented at the IEEE/ACM International Conference on Computer-Aided Design (ICCAD) 2010 Conference. It has been selected as the winner of the prestigious ICCAD 2020 – Ten Year Retrospective Most Influential Paper Award , which is one the most prestigious given in the Electronic Design Automation (EDA) community about industrial and academic relevance of a technical paper.

The ICCAD Executive Committee has recognized this work about the design of open-source 3D Interlayer Cooling Emulator (3D-ICE) tool (link: for compact transient thermal modeling of 2D/3D multi-processor system-on-chip (MPSoC) with liquid-cooling as “the most influential on research and industrial practice in computer-aided design of integrated circuits over the ten years since its original appearance at ICCAD.” The authors of the paper are Arvind Sridhar, Alessandro Vincenzi, Martino Ruggiero, David Atienza (all from the Embedded Systems Laboratory – ESL at EPFL), and Thomas Brunschwiler (IBM Zurich Research Laboratory).

As the researchers argue in their paper, the vertical integration of high-performance integrated circuits in the form of 3D stacks (3D ICs) is highly demanding since the effective areal heat dissipation increases with number of dies generating high chip temperatures. To deal with the thermal challenge, inter-tier integrated microchannel cooling is a promising and scalable solution. However, a robust design of a 3D IC and its subsequent thermal management requires accurate modeling of the effects of liquid cooling with respect to other cooling solutions regarding the thermal behavior of the IC. Therefore, the authors developed 3D-ICE as a compact transient thermal model (CTTM) for the thermal simulation that can consider the non-linear thermal properties of liquids and nano-scale materials used in 2D and 3D Multi-Processor System-on-Chip (MPSoC) architectures with multiple inter-tier microchannel liquid cooling. The model offers significant speed-up over a typical commercial computational fluid dynamics simulation tool while preserving accuracy. Based on 3D-ICE, the study presented a thermal simulator capable of running in parallel on multicore architectures and possible to be parallelized in GPUs, offering further savings in simulation time and higher efficiency.

3D-ICE is a Linux-based Thermal Emulator Library written in C, which can perform transient thermal analyses of vertically stacked 3D integrated circuits with inter-tier Microchannel Liquid Cooling. This approach and tool developed at EPFL was used in the design of Aquasar (the first chip-level water-cooled server by IBM). A decade after it was developed, 3D-ICE continues to be the go-to tool for more than 1500 teams worldwide.

The ICCAD award recognizes the worldwide relevance of EPFL’s work on micro-electronics and MPSoC thermal-aware design. It will be presented on November 2 at the opening session of the Virtual Event of ICCAD 2020.