Modified Form of Graphene Can Improve Cooling of Electronics
A University of California, Riverside engineering professor and a team of researchers have made a breakthrough discovery with graphene, a material that could play a major role in keeping laptops and other electronic devices from overheating.
Alexander Balandin, a professor of electrical engineering at the UC Riverside Bourns College of Engineering, and researchers from The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Texas at Dallas and Xiamen University in China, have shown that the thermal properties of isotopically engineered graphene are far superior to those of graphene in its natural state.
The results bring graphene—a single-atom thick carbon crystal with unique properties, including superior electrical and heat conductivity, mechanical strength and unique optical absorption—one step closer to being used as a thermal conductor for managing heat dissipation in everything from electronics to photovoltaic solar cells to radars.
"The important finding is the possibility of a strong enhancement of thermal conduction properties of isotopically pure graphene without substantial alteration of electrical, optical and other physical properties," Balandin said. "Isotopically pure graphene can become an excellent choice for many practical applications provided that the cost of the material is kept under control."
The importance of the present research is explained by practical needs for materials with high thermal conductivity. Heat removal has become a crucial issue for continuing progress in the electronics industry, owing to increased levels of dissipated power as the devices become smaller and smaller. The search for materials that conduct heat well has become essential for the design of the next generation of integrated circuits and three-dimensional electronics.
Balandin believes graphene will gradually be incorporated into different devices. Intially, it will likely be used in some niche applications such as thermal interface materials for chip packaging or transparent electrodes in photovoltaic solar cells or flexible displays, he said. In a few years, it could be used with silicon in computer chips, for example as interconnect wiring or heat spreaders. It also has the potential to benefit other electronic applications, including analog high-frequency transistors, which are used in wireless communications, radar, security systems and imaging.
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