Cooling the circuits

18 October 2019

18 October 2019

Smaller and more powerful electronics can accentuate problems of heat generation and lead to devices such as phones overheating. However, a team of scientists in Spain and Switzerland have found that by changing the orientation of atoms in nanowires they can improve thermal conductivity.

They found that atomic vibrations in nanowires could be controlled by periodically rotating their crystal nano-layers. The researchers said that this is the first time that the arrangement of atoms alone has been shown to influence the behaviour of heat carrier waves, known as phonons – and thus thermal conductivity.

The team generated gallium phosphide nanowires in which successive crystal layers were periodically rotated against each other by 60o. This ‘twinning superlattice’ allows phonons to propagate coherently and therefore carry off heat very effectively.

The challenge now is to show that tuning phononic properties also directly affects heat flux – which could pave the way to materials with tailormade thermal conductivity.

The researchers say that such materials can have applications in the field of condensed matter and nanoscience, such as engineering efficient thermoelectric materials and thermal management in nanoelectronics or envisaging devices that can use heat for information processing.

For further details visit this month’s issue of Chemistry and Industry.

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