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Nanowick at heart of new system to cool 'power electronics'
Date:7/22/2010

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Researchers have shown that an advanced cooling technology being developed for high-power electronics in military and automotive systems is capable of handling roughly 10 times the heat generated by conventional computer chips.

The miniature, lightweight device uses tiny copper spheres and carbon nanotubes to passively wick a coolant toward hot electronics, said Suresh V. Garimella, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Distinguished Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University.

This wicking technology represents the heart of a new ultrathin "thermal ground plane," a flat, hollow plate containing water.

Similar "heat pipes" have been in use for more than two decades and are found in laptop computers. However, they are limited to cooling about 50 watts per square centimeter, which is good enough for standard computer chips but not for "power electronics" in military weapons systems and hybrid and electric vehicles, Garimella said.

The research team from Purdue, Thermacore Inc. and Georgia Tech Research Institute is led by Raytheon Co., creating the compact cooling technology in work funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA.

The team is working to create heat pipes about one-fifth the thickness of commercial heat pipes and covering a larger area than the conventional devices, allowing them to provide far greater heat dissipation.

New findings indicate the wicking system that makes the technology possible absorbs more than 550 watts per square centimeter, or about 10 times the heat generated by conventional chips. This is more than enough cooling capacity for the power-electronics applications, Garimella said.

The findings are detailed in a research paper appearing online this month in the International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer and will be published in the journal's September issue. The paper was written by mecha
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Contact: Emil Venere
venere@purdue.edu
765-494-4709
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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