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Boosting heat transfer with 'nanoglue'

05 December 2012

A study has demonstrated a new method for significantly increasing heat transfer rate across two different materials, opening up new possibilities for cooling computer chips and LEDs.

By sandwiching a layer of ultrathin 'nanoglue' between copper and silica, the research team demonstrated a four-fold increase in thermal conductance at the interface between the two materials. Less than a nanometer thick, the nanoglue is a layer of molecules that form strong links with the copper and the silica, which otherwise would not stick together well.

This kind of nanomolecular locking improves adhesion, and also helps to sync up the vibrations of atoms that make up the two materials which, in turn, facilitates more efficient transport of heat particles called phonons. Beyond copper and silica, the research team has demonstrated their approach works with other metal-ceramic interfaces.

Heat transfer is a critical aspect of many different technologies. As computer chips grow smaller and more complex, manufacturers are constantly in search of new and better means for removing excess heat from semiconductor devices to boost reliability and performance. With photovoltaic devices, for example, better heat transfer leads to more efficient conversion of sunlight to electrical power.

LED makers are also looking for ways to increase efficiency by reducing the percentage of input power lost as heat. Ganapati Ramanath, professor in the Department of Materials Science and Engineering at Rensselaer, who led the new study, said the ability to enhance and optimise interfacial thermal conductance should lead to new innovations in these and other applications.

The study may be viewed online here


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