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Nanotubes, Thermal Management in Electronics
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Written by Gizmo   
Tuesday, 03 April 2007 15:08

Techology News Daily

As the electronics industry continues to churn out smaller and slimmer portable devices, manufacturers have been challenged to find new ways to combat the persistent problem of thermal management. New research published in the March 19 issue of Applied Physics Letters suggests that carbon nanotubes may soon be integrated into ever-shrinking cell phones, digital audio players, and personal digital assistants to help ensure the equipment does not overheat, malfunction, or fail.

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The chips inside an electronic device give off heat as a byproduct of power consumption when the object is on or being used. To reduce high temperatures, heat sinks — finned devices made of conductive metal such as aluminum or copper — are attached to the back of the chips to "pull" thermal energy away from the microprocessor and transfer it into the surrounding air. Fans or fluids are sometimes used to improve the cooling process, but they increase the device weight, size, and bulk.

Using microfin structures made of aligned multiwalled carbon nanotube arrays mounted to the back of silicon chips, researchers from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the University of Oulu in Finland have proven that nanotubes can dissipate chip heat as effectively as copper — the best known, but most costly, material for thermal management applications. And the nanotubes are more flexible, resilient, and 10 times lighter than any other cooling material available.

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