An electronic component where a graphene layer has been placed on the hotspots

Graphene heat dissipater extends electronics lifetime

Newly discovered heat dissipating qualities in graphene could extend the working life of computers and other electronics.

An international group of researchers, headed by Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, are the first in the world to show that wonder material graphene has a heat dissipating effect on silicon based electronics.

Modern electronic systems generate a great deal of heat and the amount produced is constantly rising due to the increasing demand for more and more functionality – a major problem due to the fact a 10°C increase in working temperature roughly halves the working life of an electronics system.

However, the team from Chalmers found that a layer of graphene can reduce the working temperature in hotspots inside a processor by up to 25 per cent.

“This discovery opens the door to increased functionality and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to miniaturising electronics,” says Chalmers Professor Johan Liu who heads the international research project.

During the study, the researchers focused on reducing the temperature in the small area where the electronics work most intensively – such as inside a processor, for instance.

These tiny hotspots are found in all electronics and in terms of size 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°C,” says Liu.

“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.”

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 80W continuously and in transient stage up to 300W (within 10 nanoseconds) and LED devices can have a thermal intensity almost on a par with the sun, up to 600W/cm2 due to their extremely small size.

According to Liu a study in the USA based on data from 2006, around 50 per cent of the total electricity used to run data servers goes on cooling the systems, and he hopes his discovery may soon help to reduce this.

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