Nano Science and Technology Institute

Staying cool in the nanoelectric universe by getting hot

January 23, 2014 03:50 PM EST By: Jennifer Rocha

Research hints that nanodevices in microcircuits can protect themselves from heat generation; could boost computing power without large-scale changes to electronics

Story content courtesy of the University of Buffalo, US

As smartphones, tablets and other gadgets become smaller and more sophisticated, the heat they generate while in use increases.

A new University at Buffalo research paper hints at the opposite: that is, to make laptops and other portable electronic devices more robust, more heat might be the answer.

“We’ve found that it’s possible to protect nanoelectronic devices from the heat they generate in a way that preserves how these devices function,” said Jonathan Bird, UB professor of electrical engineering. “This will hopefully allow us to continue developing more powerful smartphones, tablets and other devices without having a fundamental meltdown in their operation due to overheating.”

While advanced materials show tremendous potential, the UB research suggests there may still be room within the existing paradigm of electronic devices to continue developing more powerful computers.

To achieve their findings, the researchers fabricated nanoscale semiconductor devices in a state-of-the-art gallium arsenide crystal provided to UB by Sandia’s Reno. The researchers then subjected the chip to a large voltage, squeezing an electrical current through the nanoconductors. This, in turn, increased the amount of heat circulating through the chip’s nanotransistor.

But instead of degrading the device, the nanotransistor spontaneously transformed itself into a quantum state which was protected from the effect of heating and provided a robust channel of electric current.

The research was supported by the U.S. Department of Energy.

 

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