Navigation Links
MIT scientists transform polyethylene into a heat-conducting material
Date:3/7/2010

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- Most polymers materials made of long, chain-like molecules are very good insulators for both heat and electricity. But an MIT team has found a way to transform the most widely used polymer, polyethylene, into a material that conducts heat just as well as most metals, yet remains an electrical insulator.

The new process causes the polymer to conduct heat very efficiently in just one direction, unlike metals, which conduct equally well in all directions. This may make the new material especially useful for applications where it is important to draw heat away from an object, such as a computer processor chip. The work is described in a paper published on March 7 in Nature Materials.

The key to the transformation was getting all the polymer molecules to line up the same way, rather than forming a chaotic tangled mass, as they normally do. The team did that by slowly drawing a polyethylene fiber out of a solution, using the finely controllable cantilever of an atomic force microscope, which they also used to measure the properties of the resulting fiber.

This fiber was about 300 times more thermally conductive than normal polyethylene along the direction of the individual fibers, says the team's leader, Gang Chen, the Carl Richard Soderberg Professor of Power Engineering and director of MIT's Pappalardo Micro and Nano Engineering Laboratories.

The high thermal conductivity could make such fibers useful for dissipating heat in many applications where metals are now used, such as solar hot water collectors, heat exchangers and electronics.

Chen explains that most attempts to create polymers with improved thermal conductivity have focused on adding in other materials, such as carbon nanotubes, but these have achieved only modest increases in conductivity because the interfaces between the two kinds of material tend to add thermal resistance. "The interfaces actually scatter heat, so you don't get much improvement," Chen says. But using this new method, the conductivity was enhanced so much that it was actually better than that of about half of all pure metals, including iron and platinum.

Producing the new fibers, in which the polymer molecules are all aligned instead of jumbled, required a two-stage process, explains graduate student Sheng Shen, the lead author of the paper. The polymer is initially heated and drawn out, then heated again to stretch it further. "Once it solidifies at room temperature, you can't do any large deformation," Shen says, "so we heat it up twice."

Even greater gains are likely to be possible as the technique is improved, says Chen, noting that the results achieved so far already represent the highest thermal conductivity ever seen in any polymer material. Already, the degree of conductivity they produce, if such fibers could be made in quantity, could provide a cheaper alternative to metals used for heat transfer in many applications, especially ones where the directional characteristics would come in handy, such as heat-exchanger fins (like the coils on the back of a refrigerator or in an air conditioner), cell-phone casings or the plastic packaging for computer chips. Other applications might be devised that take advantage of the material's unusual combination of thermal conductivity with light weight, chemical stability and electrical insulation.

So far, the team has just produced individual fibers in a laboratory setting, Chen says, but "we're hoping that down the road, we can scale up to a macro scale," producing whole sheets of material with the same properties.

Ravi Prasher, an engineer at Intel, says that "the quality of the work from Prof. Chen's group has always been phenomenal," and adds that "this is a very significant finding" that could have many applications in electronics. The remaining question, he says, is "how scalable is the manufacturing of these fibers? How easy is it to integrate these fibers in real-world applications?"


'/>"/>

Contact: Jennifer Hirsch
jfhirsch@mit.edu
617-253-1682
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology technology :

1. Scientists discover how ocean bacterium turns carbon into fuel
2. Scientists glimpse nanobubbles on super nonstick surfaces
3. Princeton scientists find an equation for materials innovation
4. Scientists glimpse nanobubbles on super non-stick surfaces
5. Scientists transplant nose of mosquito, advance fight against malaria
6. Penn material scientists turn light into electrical current using a golden nanoscale system
7. Seeing the quantum in chemistry: JILA scientists control chemical reactions of ultracold molecules
8. NFCR Scientists Discover Brain Tumor's “Escape Path”
9. Scientists achieve first rewire of genetic switches
10. Scientists create worlds first molecular transistor
11. 6 PNNL scientists elected AAAS fellows
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:10/10/2017)... Calif. , Oct. 10, 2017 SomaGenics ... from the NIH to develop RealSeq®-SC (Single Cell), expected ... for profiling small RNAs (including microRNAs) from single cells ... Program highlights the need to accelerate development of approaches ... "New techniques for measuring levels ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... , Oct. 9, 2017  BioTech Holdings announced ... by which its ProCell stem cell therapy prevents ... ischemia.  The Company, demonstrated that treatment with ProCell ... limbs saved as compared to standard bone marrow ... HGF resulted in reduction of therapeutic effect.  ...
(Date:10/9/2017)... ... October 09, 2017 , ... The ... medical marijuana products targeting the needs of consumers who are incorporating medical marijuana ... place in Phoenix, Arizona. , As operators of two successful Valley dispensaries, The ...
(Date:10/7/2017)... ... October 06, 2017 , ... ... its ProxiMeta™ Hi-C metagenome deconvolution product, featuring the first commercially available Hi-C ... software to perform Hi-C metagenome deconvolution using their own facilities, supplementing the ...
Breaking Biology Technology:
(Date:6/23/2017)... N.Y. , June 23, 2017  IBM (NYSE: ... dairy research, today announced a new collaboration using next-generation ... chances that the global milk supply is impacted by ... Cornell University has become the newest academic institution to ... a food safety initiative that includes IBM Research, Mars, ...
(Date:5/16/2017)... 2017  Veratad Technologies, LLC ( www.veratad.com ), an ... identity verification solutions, announced today they will participate as ... 15 thru May 17, 2017, in Washington ... Center. Identity impacts the lives of ... quickly evolving digital world, defining identity is critical to ...
(Date:4/24/2017)... -- Janice Kephart , former 9/11 Commission ... LLP (IdSP) , today issues the following statement: ... 6, 2017 Executive Order: Protecting the Nation ... instilled with greater confidence, enabling the reactivation of ... are suspended by until at least July 2017). ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):