New insights into how materials transfer heat could lead to improved electronics

May 16, 2013

University of Toronto engineering researchers, working with colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, have published new insights into how materials transfer heat, which could lead eventually to smaller, more powerful electronic devices.

and other electronic parts have been shrinking in size and growing in complexity and power for decades. But as circuits get smaller, it becomes more difficult to dissipate . For further advances to be made in electronics, researchers and industry need to find ways of tracking heat transfer in products ranging from smart phones to computers to .

Dan Sellan and Professor Cristina Amon, of U of T's Mechanical and Industrial Engineering department, investigated a new tool to measure the thermal and vibrational properties of solids. Working with colleagues from Carnegie Mellon University, they studied materials in which heat is transferred by atomic vibrations in packets called phonons. Their results were recently published in Nature Communications.

"In an analogy to light, phonons come in a spectrum of colors, and we have developed a new tool to measure how different color phonons contribute to the thermal conductivity of solids," said Jonathan Malen, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering at CMU.

According to the researchers, the new tool will give both industry and academia a clearer picture of how an electronic device's ability to dissipate heat shrinks with its size, and how materials can be structured at the to change their thermal conductivity.

For example, in the initial demonstration, the team showed that as silicon microprocessors continue to shrink, their operating temperatures will be further challenged by reduced thermal conductivity.

"Our modeling work provides an in-depth look at how individual phonons impact thermal conductivity," said Sellan, who undertook his research as a PhD Candidate in Professor Amon's lab. Currently an NSERC at The University of Texas at Austin, Sellan is developing experimental techniques for thermal measurements.

Professor Amon, who is also Dean of the Faculty of Applied Science & Engineering at U of T, said Sellan's insights will allow researchers to design nanostructured thermoelectric materials with increased efficiency in converting waste heat to electrical energy. This work has exciting implications for the future of nano-scale research."

Explore further: Can perovskites and silicon team up to boost industrial solar cell efficiencies?

More information: Paper: www.nature.com/ncomms/journal/… full/ncomms2630.html

Related Stories

'Invisible' particles could enhance thermoelectric devices

Feb 06, 2013

Thermoelectric devices—which can either generate an electric current from a difference in temperature or use electricity to produce heating or cooling without moving parts—have been explored in the laboratory ...

Recommended for you

New insights found in black hole collisions

Mar 27, 2015

New research provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe—the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole.

X-rays probe LHC for cause of short circuit

Mar 27, 2015

The LHC has now transitioned from powering tests to the machine checkout phase. This phase involves the full-scale tests of all systems in preparation for beam. Early last Saturday morning, during the ramp-down, ...

Swimming algae offer insights into living fluid dynamics

Mar 27, 2015

None of us would be alive if sperm cells didn't know how to swim, or if the cilia in our lungs couldn't prevent fluid buildup. But we know very little about the dynamics of so-called "living fluids," those ...

First glimpse inside a macroscopic quantum state

Mar 27, 2015

In a recent study published in Physical Review Letters, the research group led by ICREA Prof at ICFO Morgan Mitchell has detected, for the first time, entanglement among individual photon pairs in a beam ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.