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Researchers create new thermal material

Researchers create new thermal material

IFAM has created a new thermal material by adding these diamond crystals with a carbide film to copper.

Copper heatpipes are commonly seen winding their way around heatsinks these days, but even copper’s thermal conductivity looks decidedly feeble in comparison to that of diamond. Of course, a diamond-encrusted heatsink would be ridiculously expensive, but researchers are slowly finding ways to access the thermal properties of diamond. Sparkle recently announced that it had successfully tested coolers using a diamond-like carbon coating, and now researchers in Germany claim to have achieved decent cooling results by adding diamond powder to copper.

Developed by scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Manufacturing Engineering and Applied Materials Research (IFAM) in Dresden, the new material was researched as a part of the ExtreMat project.

The group claims to have already surpassed the high thermal conductivity of copper by adding diamond powder to the material. IFAM’s project manager, Dr Thomas Schubert, explained that “diamond conducts heat roughly five times better than copper. The resulting material expands no more than ceramics when heated, but has a conductivity one-and-a-half times superior to copper. This is a unique combination of properties.”

So why has no one thought of this before? Schubert explains that bonding diamond with copper isn’t an easy job, as you also need a third material to chemically unite the diamond and copper. Schubert managed to cleave the two using chrome as a third material and, according to IFAM, samples of the material have already been successfully produced and demonstrated.

Explaining the need for a new thermally-conductive material, IFAM points to the shrinking process technologies used in silicon, resulting in densely packed integrated circuits that can generate an increasing amount of heat. “The more components are packed into a limited space, the more difficult it is to dissipate the heat,” says IFAM.

“Manufacturers therefore mount a small copper or aluminum plate underneath them to conduct the heat away. The plate, in turn, is soldered to ceramic components or silicon (the main constituent of the chip). If this system heats up, the metal plate expands about three or four times as much as the silicon or the ceramics. This causes tension which can lead to cracks in the soldered joints, so there are limits to how far components can be miniaturised.”

According to IFAM, the new material was a response to requests to discover “a material with special properties that can efficiently dissipate heat even in devices with densely packed components and that can give increasingly miniaturised electronics a longer life.” As well as being able to conduct heat more efficiently than copper, the new material also couldn’t expand to more than ceramics or silicon at high temperatures.

The group hasn’t announced any plans for mass production of the material yet, or how much it’s likely to cost, but the group’s industrial partners include Siemens, so it’s likely to get some good investment. Are you excited about the prospect of new materials with superior thermal conductivity to copper? Let us know your thoughts in the forums.

Via Engadget.

10 Comments

Discuss in the forums Reply
B1GBUD 9th April 2009, 14:14 Quote
Waiting for the first £1000 HSF's to arrive!
GFC 9th April 2009, 15:37 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by B1GBUD
Waiting for the first £1000 HSF's to arrive!

My thoughts exactly. xD
p3n 9th April 2009, 15:55 Quote
"one-and-a-half times"

wish I could research things that give a 50% improvement to a problem that doesnt exist...
metarinka 9th April 2009, 18:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n
"one-and-a-half times"

wish I could research things that give a 50% improvement to a problem that doesnt exist...

ever heard of the red ring of death on an xbox? caused by the heatsink...
while not a big deal on PC platforms which do not use integrated heatsinks. It can be an issue on more miniature platforms and the coefficient of thermal expansion is not something that is easily skirted around.

when I worked as an engineer at an thermal products manufacturer we constantly had to plan around the expansion of heating metals as it would literally rip 1" plate apart.

besides if it gives better performance isn't that reason enough?
Stonewall78 9th April 2009, 18:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n
"one-and-a-half times"

wish I could research things that give a 50% improvement to a problem that doesnt exist...

Since when has heat dissipation NOT been a problem?
TheoGeo 9th April 2009, 23:48 Quote
Forget pcs. This would probably be more use full in engineering. Jet engines, satellites, helicopters etc. all these things need as much heat dissipation as possible with minimal weight gain. They'd also be more likely to shell out the extra cash too.
Firehed 10th April 2009, 02:07 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n
"one-and-a-half times"

wish I could research things that give a 50% improvement to a problem that doesnt exist...

Uh, ok. Heat dissipation and heatsink efficiency is one of the biggest problems in modern-day computing. I'm surprised that Google hasn't already bought this company, given how many datacenters they control. A HUGE amount of the costs of running datacenters is related to cooling.
The_Beast 11th April 2009, 01:07 Quote
better cooling = more powers
perplekks45 12th April 2009, 03:55 Quote
Buying the Fraunhofer Institute? What a nice idea... :|

On topic:

Yep, me wants [if affordable, so not yet].
_Metal_Guitar_ 11th April 2010, 12:24 Quote
Haha, the ultimate bling heatsinks.
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