Very thin film could help manage heat flow in future devices

March 27, 2018, Purdue University
Purdue researchers have discovered a characteristic of this film that could help control heat flow in electronics. Credit: Purdue University image/Jared Pike

Purdue University researchers have demonstrated the ability of a thin film to conduct heat on just its surfaces, identifying a potential solution to overheating in electronic devices such as phones and computers.

"When you try to make an electronic device, the dissipation is always a problem," said Xianfan Xu, Purdue's James J. and Carol L. Shuttleworth Professor of Mechanical Engineering. "So we are trying to provide an understanding of how heat can be dissipated in these future devices."

This thin film material is a topological insulator, which supports the flow of electrons on its surface but not in its interior. No study had yet tested whether the same were true for heat, until confirmed by research published on Jan. 23 in ACS Nano. Past research has speculated that topological insulators could be useful for the development of spintronic devices, which encode information through the spins of electrons as opposed to electrical charge in today's electronics.

The researchers found that the thinner the film is, the higher the . They also discovered that the ratio of to at the surface of the topological insulator materials can be more than 10 times higher than the Sommerfeld value, which is the value known for most metals and semiconductors determined by the Weidemann-Franz law. By conducting heat on just its surfaces rather than across the entire film, this material could prevent parts of a device from heating up or redirect heat.

Now, having identified this characteristic of heat transfer in , the next step is to figure out how to use them for manipulating heat flow.

"There are not many ways to control heat. It's not electricity, where you can turn it on and off," Xu said. "But now there might be a chance to do that."

Explore further: Switching conduction mode—a step towards topological transistors

More information: Zhe Luo et al. Large Enhancement of Thermal Conductivity and Lorenz Number in Topological Insulator Thin Films, ACS Nano (2018). DOI: 10.1021/acsnano.7b06430

Related Stories

Engineering electron pathways in 2-D topological insulators

December 4, 2017

In a recent article published in Physical Review Letters a research collaborative has reported new insights into the electronic conduction and interference on 2-D topological insulators—an exotic kind of insulator that ...

Turning background room temperature heat into energy

February 15, 2018

Every time we convert energy from one form to another, part of that energy is lost in the form of heat. Trying to efficiently get that energy back is very difficult once it is lost to the environment. Thermoelectric devices ...

Recommended for you

Weaponizing oxygen to kill infections and disease

August 19, 2018

The life-threatening bacteria called MRSA can cripple a hospital since it spreads quickly and is resistant to treatment. But scientists report that they are now making advances in a new technique that avoids antibiotics. ...

Flexible color displays with microfluidics

August 16, 2018

A new study published on Microsystems and Nanoengineering by Kazuhiro Kobayashi and Hiroaki Onoe details the development of a flexible and reflective multicolor display system that does not require continued energy supply ...

Twisted electronics open the door to tunable 2-D materials

August 16, 2018

Two-dimensional (2-D) materials such as graphene have unique electronic, magnetic, optical, and mechanical properties that promise to drive innovation in areas from electronics to energy to materials to medicine. Columbia ...

Scientists discover why silver clusters emit light

August 16, 2018

Clusters of silver atoms captured in zeolites, a porous material with small channels and voids, have remarkable light-emitting properties. They can be used for more efficient lighting applications as a substitute for LED ...

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.