Thermal Conductivity Easily and Efficiently Drains Device Heat Sinks

Mona Zebarjadi, assistant professor with UVA’s School of Engineering, has found a way to help computers and other electronic devices keep their cool. She applied her knowledge of electric circuits and materials to design an all-solid-state active cooler that quickly returns an overheating device to a normal temperature. Zebarjadi holds joint appointments in the Charles L. Brown Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and the Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

Zebarjadi joined co-authors at Ohio State’s Scott Laboratory to design an active cooler that incorporates metals that are naturally conductive and can carry more heat, such as cobalt and a cerium-palladium alloy. This process, which they call enhancing thermal conductivity, more easily and efficiently drains a device’s heat sinks that pull and store heat away from metal components.

The team’s active cooler can be self-regulating, if combined with a feedback loop. This helps electronic devices easily adapt to changes in the environment - going from indoors to outdoors for example - and to the level of activity, from texting to video game play. Their method also achieves an order-of-magnitude gain in the amount of heat that is depleted, increasing both the durability and longevity of devices.

The team published the discovery May 3, 2019, in Physical Review Applied. Nature Electronics summarized their findings in a research highlight in Thermoelectrics, “Going with the flow (of heat),” published June 17, 2019.