Cool graphene to solve chip burnout

The latest insight into the world of graphene has revealed the potential to stop laptops and other devices overheating, offering an end to burnt-out devices and scorched thighs.

As well as much vaunted possibilities for a future generation of non-silicon based chips, graphene has further applications for electronic devices.  An announcement last week highlighting the material’s piezoelectric properties, for example, demonstrated its flexability.  Indeed, one of the first applications we are likely to see with graphene is in flexible touchscreens.

Now, with a twist on the way the wonder material is usually constructed, a team of researchers from the US and China have shown how it can conduct heat to manage heat dissipation.

According to research led by the University of California, Riverside, by engineering graphene it’s possible to make much more use of the thermal conductivity found in its original state.

This could open up the material being used with a range of electronics, or even with photovoltaic cells, as long as the cost of the material can be kept down following the necessary tinkering.

This is because carbon materials – like the one-atom-thick graphene – are made up of two different isotopes, and by engineering the amount of each it is possible to greatly enhance heat conductivity.

While the applications for such engineered graphene are likely to be in thermal interface materials for chip packaging or transparent electrodes for PV cells, the researchers also reckon that it could help produce chips that work at lower processes.

As chips get smaller they generate more heat, and such a thermal conductor could be used to help silicon from overheating as chip designs get smaller and smaller, either as a heat-spreader or as interconnect wiring.