As electronics get steadily smaller and denser, they also get hotter. Their components do not function best at high temperatures, so dealing with the escalating heat that colliding electrons produce as they flow through the semiconductors in these shrinking items is a huge—and increasingly pressing—technological challenge.


There are various ways to chill components, ranging from simple fan-cooled heat exchangers to more compact and sophisticated systems. One of the latter involves equipping semiconductor chips with a tiny device that has fluid-carrying microchannels running through it to move heat away. These channels must be as small as possible so that more of them can fit on a single chip. But the smaller the channels, the more pressure is needed for the liquid to flow—and this pressure can require a lot of energy.


Now scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne (EPFL) say they have developed a new technology to make such systems more energy-efficient. In this novel approach, the microchannel network—whose architectural design was inspired by the human circulatory system—was built within the semiconductor itself, not attached to it afterward. The findings were published on Wednesday in Nature.

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