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Intel and Berkeley announce nano-cooling breakthrough

Intel and Berkeley announce nano-cooling breakthrough

Research carried out by Intel and Berkeley scientists has developed a means of adhering carbon nanotubes to metal, promising a major improvement in cooling efficiency for future semiconductors.

Researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Intel claim to have made a breakthrough in the cooling of microchips, using a combination of carbon nanotubes and organic molecules to create a highly efficient connection between a chip and its heatsink.

Dealing with heat is a serious issue facing the semiconductor industry. As chips get faster and smaller, you find yourself having to sink large amounts of heat from ever-shrinking components. Previous research had suggested that carbon nanotubes could work as a highly efficient conduit for this heat, but the challenge lay in finding a method for getting the heat across to the nanotubes in the first place.

'The thermal conductivity of carbon nanotubes exceeds that of diamond or any other natural material but because carbon nanotubes are so chemically stable, their chemical interactions with most other materials are relatively weak, which makes for high thermal interface resistance,' explained Frank Ogletree, a physicist at Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division and leader of the study - meaning where the highly-efficient nanotubes meet the device to be cooled is unfortunately inefficient. 'Intel came to the Molecular Foundry wanting to improve the performance of carbon nanotubes in devices. Working with Nachiket Raravikar and Ravi Prasher, who were both Intel engineers when the project was initiated, we were able to increase and strengthen the contact between carbon nanotubes and the surfaces of other materials. This reduces thermal resistance and substantially improves heat transport efficiency.'

The new method works by using organic molecules to form strong covalent bonds between the carbon nanotubes and metal surfaces - the molecular equivalent of using thermal paste between a heatsink and a processor - and has impressive results: compared to previous methods, the new system allows for a six-fold increase in heat flow from the metal to the nanotubes. As an added bonus, the method uses nothing more than gas vapour or low-temperature liquid chemistry - meaning it can easily be integrated into the production process of modern chips.

Despite this, the team hasn't finished: in testing, the process was found to connect only a small portion of the nanotubes to the metal surface; in future, it's hoped that the density of contacts can be improved to further boost the efficiency of heat transfer.

The team's work is to be published in the journal Nature Communications. Thus far, Intel has not indicated whether it plans to commercialise the technology in the near future.

10 Comments

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Shirty 24th January 2014, 13:03 Quote
Cool!
murraynt 24th January 2014, 13:10 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
Cool!

I see what you did there :p
SchizoFrog 24th January 2014, 13:14 Quote
Assuming that this will eventually be used to connect the processor to the heat spreader plate, we still need to develop methods for better transfer between the heat spreader and the actual cooler. Otherwise I can only see this being used in sealed units that won't be upgradeable or replaceable.
Guinevere 24th January 2014, 13:37 Quote
What a waste of good carbon nanotubes :(

I want my space elevator and I want it NOW!
Shirty 24th January 2014, 13:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by murraynt
I see what you did there :p

It was a toss up between that and:

WOW
MUCH NANO
AMAZE
VERY MOLUECULE
SO COOLING
MANY THERMALS
WOW

But I like to think I took the high road and avoided the overused meme, preferring simple wordplay.
MjFrosty 24th January 2014, 14:23 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
Cool!

This. Basically!
Umbra 24th January 2014, 14:45 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SchizoFrog
Assuming that this will eventually be used to connect the processor to the heat spreader plate, we still need to develop methods for better transfer between the heat spreader and the actual cooler. Otherwise I can only see this being used in sealed units that won't be upgradeable or replaceable.

As the thermal conductivity of carbon nanotubes exceeds that of diamond or any other natural material it would seem that the continued use of carbon nanotubes to connect the heat spreader to the cooler would be the ideal solution but the distances between processor and heat spreader are probably much smaller than the distances between heat spreader and cooler and I'm not sure if it's possible or financially viable to use carbon nanotubes for that purpose.

If carbon nanotubes could be used between heat spreader and cooler and were super efficient but could only be made using a sealed unit it wouldn't really matter, all though it would be very annoying for us modders who often find it hard to believe that a company spending £000,000's on development can make something better than we can in a shed with after market h/sinks and fans :D

Nanotubes aside, "Molecular Foundry" what a great phrase, I really need a Skyrim mod for a Molecular Foundry maybe the next great incarnation of The Elder Scrolls will have the option for nano technology, I can here the Skyrim Lore perfectionists sharpening their weapons already
edzieba 24th January 2014, 18:26 Quote
The big question: how much does the process cost? Intel already switched from solder bonded IHS to a past TIM because it was fractionally cheaper (even though lower performing at higher voltages), so why would they switch to this, even if it performed significantly better, if it cost more?
NIHILO 24th January 2014, 23:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Shirty
But I like to think I took the high road and avoided the overused meme, preferring simple wordplay.

Such Polite.
Much courtesy.
Wow.
Glix 25th January 2014, 23:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Guinevere
What a waste of good carbon nanotubes :(

I want my space elevator and I want it NOW!

Me too, but so long as it doesn't lead to fiery death. :D
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