Heat Waves In Graphene Key To Improving The Challenging Process Of Cooling Electronics?

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ETH Zurich

ETH Zurich

Electronic components continue to get smaller and faster, but unfortunately the process by which these electronics are cooled is struggling to keep up.

Specifically, learning how to cool down sheets of materials no more than a few atoms thick has been an ongoing study by researchers.

Now, however, a new study published in Nature Communications by a team of EPFL researchers has revealed more information on the mechanisms of thermal conductivity in graphene and other two-dimensional materials.

Their findings show that heat propagates in the form of a wave, just like sound in air, a potential breakthrough discovery when it comes to cooling down circuits at the nanoscale, or even replacing silicon in tomorrow’s electronics.

The way heat moves throughout two-dimensional materials is much more difficult to predict than the way heat propagates in three-dimensional materials.

As heat propagates though a three-dimensional material, phonons, or the vibration of atoms, keep colliding with each other, merging together, or splitting. The researchers at EPFL discovered in 2D, all phonons march together in unison over very long distances, a phenomenon wave-like diffusion, called “second sound”.

“Our simulations, based on first-principles physics, have shown that atomically thin sheets of materials behave, even at room temperature, in the same way as three-dimensional materials at extremely low temperatures” says Andrea Cepellotti, the first author of the study. “We can show that the thermal transport is described by waves, not only in graphene but also in other materials that have not been studied yet,” explains Cepellotti. “This is an extremely valuable information for engineers, who could exploit the design of future electronic components using some of these novel two-dimensional materials properties.”

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