We’ve all had the experience of one of our electronic devices overheating. Needless, to mention that once that happens, it becomes dangerous both for the device and its surroundings. But considering the speed at which the devices work, is it possible to avoid overheating?
740% increase in power per unit
Researchers at the University of Illinois at UrbanaChampaign (UIUC) & University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley) recently developed an invention that could cool electronics more efficiently than other alternative solutions, enabling a 740% per-unit power increase, according to a report this Thursday published press release by the institutions.
Tarek Gebrael, lead author of the new research and a UIUC PhD student in mechanical engineering, explained that current cooling solutions have 3 specific problems. “First, they can be expensive & difficult to scale up,” he said.
He gave the example of diamond heat spreaders, which are obviously very expensive. Second, he described how conventional heat spreading approaches generally place the heat spreader & a heat sin (a device for efficiently dissipating heat) on top of the electronic device. Unfortunately, “in several cases, most of the heat is generated beneath the electronic device,” which means that the cooling mechanism isn’t where it’s needed most.
Third, Gebrael explained, heat spreaders cannot be installed directly on the surface of electronics. A layer of “Thermal Interface Material” must be placed between them to ensure good contact. However, this material has poor heat transfer properties. which negatively affects on thermal performance.
A solution to all conventional problems
Fortunately, researchers have found a new solution that addresses all3 problems. They started using copper as the main material, which is obviously cheap. They then had the copper coating “wrap” completely around the device, Gebrael said, “covering the top, bottom & sides … a conformal coating covering all exposed surfaces” to ensure no heat-generating area were left unprotected. Finally, the new solution eliminates the need for a thermal interface material & heat sink. How innovative!
“In our study, we compared our coatings to standard heat dissipation methods,” Gebrael said. “What we are showing is that you can get very similar or even better thermal performance or even better performance, with coatings compared to heat sinks.
Removing the heatsink & thermal interface also ensures that the device using new solution is much smaller than its conventional counterparts.” “And this results in much higher performance per unit volume. We were able to demonstrate a 740% increase in performance per unit volume,” added Gebrael.
Co-author Nenad Miljkovic, Associate Professor of Mechanical Science & Engineering at UIUC and Gebrael advisor, concluded, “Tarek’s work in collaboration with the UC Berkeley team has enabled us to use a non-siloed electro thermo mechanical technology development approach to create a solution for a difficult problem for several industries.
The study is published in Nature Electronics.