Graphene Could Help Electronics be Self-Cooling, Save Energy
Image credit: Alex Jerez, Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology
Graphene is a substance that scientists have been highly interested in as an alternative material for faster-charging batteries. We've been hearing for several years about its potential to replace silicone in computer chips, but for the first time, we're hearing that graphene might also be self-cooling, a feature that might be a huge boon for more efficient and energy-saving devices.
University of Illinois reports "With the first observation of thermoelectric effects at graphene contacts, University of Illinois researchers found that graphene transistors have a nanoscale cooling effect that reduces their temperature."
Because both the size and speed of computer chips is affected by how much heat they put out, using a material that has self-cooling properties would be a big step forward, not just in speed but in energy savings. U of Illinois states, "Computers with silicon chips use fans or flowing water to cool the transistors, a process that consumes much of the energy required to power a device. Future computer chips made out of graphene - carbon sheets 1 atom thick - could be faster than silicon chips and operate at lower power."
The problem, though, is gaining a better understanding of the properties of graphene that revolve around heat generation and distribution. And a major part of the reason why understanding is limited so far is because the graphene transistors are so ridiculously tiny. The team needed to use "an atomic force microscope tip as a temperature probe to make the first nanometer-scale temperature measurements of a working graphene transistor."
Working on a scale so small is tough work, but it seems the team is getting us closer to understanding the potential energy-saving benefits of using graphene, all thanks to its ability to cool itself off. It is exciting work, and we're looking forward to hearing more as the team looks into the self-cooling properties of nanomaterials.
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