Electronics keep their cool with graphene

U. TEXAS-AUSTIN (US) — A new form of graphene could prevent laptops and other electronics from overheating, one of the largest hurdles to building smaller, more powerful devices.

Reported online in the journal Nature Materials, researchers demonstrate for the first time that the new form is 60 percent more effective at managing and transferring heat than normal graphene.

The findings could have a significant impact on the future development of semiconductor electronics. As silicon transistors—foundations of modern-day electronics—are built smaller and faster, more effective heat removal techniques are needed to remove heat dissipated by the transistors as they operate.


The latter has become a crucial issue for the electronics industry—one that has spurred a scientific race to develop and find materials more efficient at conducting heat than the materials currently used.

“This demonstration brings graphene a step closer to being used as a conductor for managing heat in a variety of devices. The potential of this material, and its promise for the electronic industry, is very exciting,” says Rodney Ruoff, professor in the department of mechanical engineering and the materials science and engineering program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Graphene, an atom-thick layer of carbon, has shown great promise at conducting heat, and the new research findings demonstrate that the type of graphene used can play a significant role in how effectively heat is transferred.

Using a laser to both heat and take measurements of a single-layer of graphene, the researchers found that a type of graphene created by Ruoff and colleagues is better than any other material tested to date at dissipating heat.

“Because self-heating of fast and densely packed devices deteriorates their performance, graphene’s ability to conduct heat well will be very helpful in improving them,” says Alexander Balandin, professor of electrical engineering at the University of California, Riverside and a corresponding author of the research paper.

“Initially, graphene would likely be used in some niche applications, such as thermal interface materials for chip packaging or transparent electrodes in photovoltaic solar cells or flexible displays.

“But, in a few years, the uses of graphene will be diverse, broad and far-reaching because the excellent heat conduction properties of this material are beneficial for all its proposed electronic applications.”

Researchers from the University of Texas at Dallas and Xiamen University in China contributed to the study that was funded by the National Science Foundation, W.M. Keck Foundation, and the Office of Naval Research.

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