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Nanowick at Heart of New System to Cool 'power Electronics'


Purdue University researchers have developed an advanced cooling technology that can handle about 10 times the heat generated by conventional computer chips. The technology consists of a miniature, lightweight device made of tiny copper spheres and carbon nanotubes that passively wick a coolant toward hot electronics, says Purdue professor Suresh V. Garimella.

heat pipe cooling device This diagram depicts a cooling device called a heatpipe, used in electronics and computers. Researchersare developing an advanced type of heat pipe forhigh-power electonics in military and automotiveapplications.Credit: School of Mechanical Engineering, Purdue University
The wicking technology is part an ultrathin thermal ground plane—a flat, hollow plate containing water. The Purdue team is working to create heat pipes about one-fifth the thickness of commercial heat pipes and covering a larger area than the conventional devices, which would enable them to provide far greater heat dissipation. The cooling system could be used to prevent the overheating of devices called insulated gate bipolar transistors, which are used in hybrid and electric vehicles.

The system works by circulating water through a boiling, evaporating, and condensing process. Allowing a liquid to boil significantly increases how much heat can be removed compared with heating a liquid to temperatures below its boiling point.

From Purdue University News
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