Sunday, 18 November 2018

A New Thermal Transistor to ensure that Devices Don’t Overheat

Devices Don’t Overheat

A team from Stanford has developed a thermal transistor that could ensure that devices don’t overheat. It is actually a nanoscale switch that makes sure that heat is conducted away from the electronic components of various devices.

At one time or another, many of us are faced with the problem of our electronic devices overheating. It could happen to our smartphones overheating due to running a navigation app or even the laptops getting overheated. The chips and circuits fail due to overheating of the devices.

An engineering team from Stanford has developed a novel way to ensure the devices don’t overheat. They have developed a way to manage the heat and also route the heat away from the devices that get overheated.

According to the article in Nature Communications, the researchers have developed a thermal transistor which is a nanoscale switch. This switch conducts the heat away from the electronic components of the devices. In addition, it insulates the electronic components against the harmful effects thereby ensuring the devices don’t overheat.

Kenneth Goodson, a senior author and professor of Mechanical Engineering says that the development of a thermal transistor could be a game changer in the field of electronics.

Developing a nanoscale switch to ensure devices don’t overheat

There has been a lot of research conducted in the past in the development of heat switches. Earlier the thermal transistors were too big, too slow or not sensitive enough in terms of practicality.

They were in the process of developing a nanoscale switch that could go on and off repeatedly, have a large hot to cooling switching contrast and no moving parts.

Goodson’s team comprising of Eric Pop, an electrical engineer and Yi Cui, a materials scientist first used a thin layer of molybdenum disulfide, a semiconducting crystal, made up of layered sheets of atoms. The layer at 10 nanometers thickness and effective at room temperature could be integrated in current day electronics. This is the main factor which contributes to the technological practicality.

The first step is to make the heat-conducting semiconductor into a transistor switch. To do this, they immersed the material into a liquid with lots of lithium ions. On applying a little amount of electric current, the lithium ions infuse into the layers of the crystal, thereby changing the heat-conducting characteristics. When the lithium concentration increases, the thermal transistor switches off. This happens because the lithium ions push the atoms of the crystal apart. This in turn makes it harder for heat to pass through.

The researchers are of the opinion that thermal transistors that are connected to computer chips would turn on and off thereby limiting the heat damage in the devices and ensure that the devices don’t overheat.

The research conducted by the team also throws light on the reasons of lithium ion battery failure. Since the porous materials in a battery have lithium, they prevent the flow of heat which causes the temperature to rise. This process becomes vital when designing safer batteries.

In the future, researchers could develop thermal transistors that could be arranged in circuits to compute using heat logic in the same way that semiconductor transistors compute using electricity.

The possibility of a practical nanoscale thermal transistor is within reach thereby ensuring that devices don’t overheat.

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