Nanotubes Could Improve Thermal Management
New research suggests that carbon nanotubes may soon be integrated into ever-shrinking cell phones, digital audio players, and personal digital assistants
to help ensure the equipment does not overheat, malfunction, or fail.
The chips inside an electronic device give off heat as a byproduct of power consumption when the object is on or being used. To reduce high temperatures, heat sinksfinned devices made of conductive metal such as aluminum or copper are attached to the back of the chips to “pull” thermal energy away from the microprocessor and transfer it into the surrounding air.
Using microfin structures made of aligned multiwalled carbon nanotube arrays mounted to the back of silicon chips, researchers from Rensselaer and the University of Oulu in Finland have proven that nanotubes can dissipate chip heat as effectively as copper the best known, but most costly, material for thermal management applications. And the nanotubes are more flexible, resilient, and 10 times lighter than any other cooling material available.
“When reduced to sub-millimeter sizes, the integrity of materials typically used for cooling structures breaks down. Silicon becomes very brittle and easily shatters, while metallic structures become bendable and weak,” says Robert Vajtai, a researcher with the Rensselaer Nanotechnology Center and corresponding author on the paper.