Rice University engineers may soon help us replace the noisy and energy draining fans from our personal computers with a more silent and cheap solution – 3D structures of graphene.
Graphene is a tightly packed layer of pure carbon atoms that has various applications ranging from more efficient solar panels and batteries to sharper headphones and super-strong body armors for the law enforcement. And now it can cool electronics, too.
In its 2D version, graphene displays a hexagonal structure of carbon atoms that can also help dissipate heat. But Rice University researchers wanted to know how much better the material can get in a 3D form.
The team performed several tests on various devices to learn how the heat flowed on a surface coated with a thin layer of 3-D graphene. They found that the material 3-D structure was a better heat conductor than the 2-D version.
2-D graphene can also keep devices cool but it has some limitations because heat can easily flow across a stacked layer of the material but it tends to dissipate slower on multiple layers.
In a 2013 study, a team of researchers from the Swedish Chalmers University of Technology noted that normal graphene can lower by up to 25 percent the temperature of a working processor.
The team hoped that the findings would extend the life of electronic devices because high levels of heat usually take their toll over time. For instance, a 10 degree increase in temperature can halve the working life of any electronics system.
Back then, Chalmers’ Prof. Johan Liu, a senior researcher involved in the discovery, noted that the finding would help the world come up with even smaller but more powerful gadgets.
Usually, electronic systems try to offset the increased heat levels more functionality involves with more efficient cooling systems. But sometimes more efficient means larger and noisier. Yet graphene is both silent and invisible to the naked eye.
The Swedish team used for the first time the properties of graphene inside a processor. When they work, processors have a series of hot spot within them that can heat them up a lot. These hotspots are a thousandth of a millimetre small but can reach 115 degrees Celsius when the processor is running.
A thin layer of graphene helped the temperature within a processor to drop by 13 degrees, which is a significant improvement that can both extend the life of an electronic device and make it more energy efficient. And with the newly tested 3-D graphene, things may get even better.
Image Source: Engaget