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: Neutron analysis explains dynamics behind best thermoelectric materials

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

Related Stories

'Invisible' particles could enhance thermoelectric devices

February 6, 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 since the ...

Recommended for you

Single-photon detector can count to four

December 15, 2017

Engineers have shown that a widely used method of detecting single photons can also count the presence of at least four photons at a time. The researchers say this discovery will unlock new capabilities in physics labs working ...

Real-time observation of collective quantum modes

December 15, 2017

A cylindrical rod is rotationally symmetric - after any arbitrary rotation around its axis it always looks the same. If an increasingly large force is applied to it in the longitudinal direction, however, it will eventually ...

A shoe-box-sized chemical detector

December 15, 2017

A chemical sensor prototype developed at the University of Michigan will be able to detect "single-fingerprint quantities" of substances from a distance of more than 100 feet away, and its developers are working to shrink ...

An ultradilute quantum liquid made from ultra-cold atoms

December 14, 2017

ICFO researchers created a novel type of liquid 100 million times more dilute than water and 1 million times thinner than air. The experiments, published in Science, exploit a fascinating quantum effect to produce droplets ...

0 comments

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.