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White Graphene May Enable Advanced Heat Management


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Evacuating heat from electronics is important for good performance and preventing damage to the device. Efficiently removing heat from a computer chip can be difficult though, because while heat likes to flow along a plane, it does not like translating from one layer to another. A good example of this is stacked layers of graphene, but researchers at Rice University have found that white graphene may not have this issue.

White graphene is hexagonal boron nitride (h-BN) and shares the hexagonal structure as graphene, which is pure carbon. The two materials also share great thermal conductance, with phonons, the quanta for heat, being able to flow ballistically along them. Unlike graphene though, if you have a 3D structure of h-BN, heat will flow in all directions, instead of keeping to a single plane. This was discovered by modeling the flow of phonons in white graphene structures, where nanotubes connect the layers. While the junctions between the nanotubes and planes did slow down the phonons, they were still able to flow.

The researchers also discovered that they could control the flow of heat by manipulating the length and density of the nanotubes. This level of control could possibly lead to thermal switches or rectifiers that can create a preferred direction for the heat to flow, making it less likely to flow backwards, to the source.

Source: Rice University

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