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Communications of the ACM

ACM TechNews

Researchers Harness Heat to Power Computers


Assistant professor Sidy Ndao (right) and graduate student Mahmoud Elzouka have created a thermal diode that will allow computers to use heat as an energy source.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln researchers say they have developed a nano-thermal-mechanical device that enable computing at ultra-high temperatures.

Credit: Karl Vogel

Researchers at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) say they have developed a nano-thermal-mechanical device, called a thermal diode, which could help computers use heat as an alternative energy source and enable computing at ultra-high temperatures.

The researchers say eventually the device could function in temperatures as high at 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, which could have major implications in a range of industries.

"We're basically creating a thermal computer" that could be used in space exploration, for exploring the core of the earth, for oil drilling, and many other applications, says UNL professor Sidy Ndao. He says the technology could enable researchers to conduct experiments and process data in real time in locations where that has previously been impossible.

In addition, Ndao says the thermal diode could help limit the amount of energy wasted by employing an energy source that has long been overlooked.

From Nebraska Today
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