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Electronics miniaturization has put high-powered computing capability into the hands of ordinary people, but the ongoing downsizing of integrated circuits is challenging engineers to come up with new ways to thwart component overheating.

Scientists at the University of California, Irvine made a breakthrough recently in verifying a new material configuration to facilitate cooling. In a study in the journal Nanotechnology, members of UCI's Nano Thermal Energy Research Group highlight the attributes of holey silicon, a computer chip wafer with tiny, vertically etched orifices that work to shuttle heat to desired locations.

"We found that heat prefers to travel vertically through but not laterally across holey silicon, which means the material can effectively move the heat from local hot spots to on-chip cooling systems in the vertical direction while sustaining the necessary temperature gradient for thermoelectric junctions in the lateral direction," said corresponding author Jaeho Lee, UCI assistant professor of mechanical & aerospace engineering.

"This innovation could potentially be ideal for keeping electronic devices such as smartphones cool during operation," said lead author Zongqing Ren, a graduate student researcher in the NTERG.

He said that lab simulations demonstrated that the cooling
effectiveness of holey silicon is at least 400 percent better than chalcogenides, compounds commonly used in thermoelectric cooling devices.

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Category: Science