One simple, single layer of graphene can lower the working temperature of a processor by up to 25% — potentially extending the working life of most types of electronics significantly, according to new research from Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden. The new research — which may lead to considerable improvements in the lifespans of computers and other widely used electronics, while also improving energy efficiency — is the first to demonstrate that graphene can have a heat-dissipating effect when applied to silicon-based electronics.
“This discovery opens the door to increased functionality and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to miniaturizing electronics,” stated Chalmers University Professor Johan Liu, the head of the international research project.
Most modern electronics generate considerable amounts of heat, primarily due to the modern drive towards greater and greater functionality/complexity. The waste heat generated by these complex electronics can cause great damage, though — the removal of the heat is very important with regards to the lifespan of the system. “One rule of thumb is that a 10-degree Celsius increase in working temperature halves the working life of an electronics system.”
In their new work, the researchers sought to address this by focusing, specifically, on finding new ways to reduce the temperatures within the small areas where the electronics work hardest and produce the most heat — such as inside a processor. “These tiny hotspots are found in all electronics. Size wise, they are on a micro or nano scale, in other words a thousandth of a millimetre or smaller.”
“The normal working temperature in the hotspots we have cooled with a graphene layer has ranged from 55 to 115 degrees Celsius. We have been able to reduce this by up to 13 degrees, which not only improves energy efficiency, it also extends the working life of the electronics,” stated Professor Liu.
Chalmers University of Technology explains further:
Efficient cooling is a major challenge in many different applications, such as automotive electronics, power electronics, computers, radio base stations and in various light emitting diodes, or LED lights. In automotive electronics systems, any single device in the ignition system can pump out up to 80 W continuously and in transient stage up to 300 W (within 10 nanoseconds). LED devices can have a thermal intensity almost on a par with the sun, up to 600 W/cm2 due to their extremely small size.
If the new graphene method proves itself as effective as the new research suggests then there will no doubt be many people/industries that are interested — those that operate data servers for example. “According to a study in the US based on data from 2006, around 50% of the total electricity used to run data servers goes on cooling the systems” — if you could lower the cooling costs of said data servers, then it would lead to huge savings, as well as decreased energy use/environmental impact. It’ll be interesting to see what becomes of this research.
The new research was just published in the scientific journal Carbon.