A new method of cooling electronic devices was recently announced, which, if it proves effective and easy to use, could lead to revolutionary change across several industrial sectors, including HVAC.
Considering that overheating is a common problem where electricity is involved, technicians are often obliged to reduce the potential danger due to the excessive heat by constructing mechanisms which are invariably as bulky as they are energy hungry.
This significant issue could finally be resolved once and for all, thanks to the development of this new innovative approach. Of course, all this is still at the developmental stage, but future expectations are high.
The most common methods of cooling electronic devices
As mentioned above, one of the secondary effects caused by the flow of electric current through a device is the generation of heat. The level of heat is quite changeable and can fluctuate according to a series of circumstantial factors, such as the intensity of the electrical flow itself.
Manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to guarantee the cooling of electronic devices because extremely high temperatures risk causing serious damage to the devices, slowing down their performance or (in the worst case scenario), comprising their ability to function.
Despite the existence of numerous methods of counteracting this problem (such as the implementation of components specifically designed to control the temperature, the selection of specific building materials or the use of designs which favour air flow), some significant obstacles remain which limit practicality, eg:
- materials and components can be extremely costly, as in the case of diamond heat diffusers;
- conventional heat dispersion systems require a heat diffusor and a heat sink. The heat sink directs the heat flow towards the diffuser, which is often installed in the upper part of the device. Considering however that that most of the heat is generated by the lower part of the device, this system is somewhat inefficient;
- almost all these methods require a layer of ‘thermal interface material’ to be placed between the diffuser and the device.
The new approach, currently being studied by a team consisting of researchers from the University of Illinois and the University of California, seems to be successful in dealing with the various issues mentioned above and its characteristics make it a less bulky, practical solution with lower costs.
An invention with enormous potential
According to the data obtained, the research carried out by the team of engineers is pointing to a simple but efficient alternative. The idea is to eliminate standard heat sinks completely and replace them with a coating (made chiefly from copper) which would be used to cover each component of the device. This method enables:
- similar (if not superior) thermal performance compared to traditional methods;
- space saving;
- increased capacity per unit of volume (experiments have shown it can rise by up to 740%);
- elimination of the need for a layer of thermal interface material.
These are undoubtedly important advantages which, if confirmed, could approaches to device cooling in every industrial sector. The ability to achieve qualities like those listed above would ensure a quicker production which is more efficient and economical.
For now, research is focusing on the completion of tests related to the reliability of copper. The coatings developed using an electro-thermal-mechanical technological approach have already been shown to be efficient in air as well as in water, but further experiments are required to verify their behaviour in boiling water, boiling dielectric fluids and high voltage environments.
While this project is still at an experimental stage, it has all the necessary features to revolutionise not only the HVAC sector but industry as a whole.