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Nano-thermometer enables first atomic-scale heat transfer measurements

Posted on June 13, 2013
An artist's representation of atomic-scale heat dissipation, which poses a serious obstacle to the development of novel nanoscale devices. University of Michigan engineering researchers have, for the first time, established a general framework for understanding heat dissipation in several nanoscale systems. Credit: Enrique Shagun, Scixel.

An artist’s representation of atomic-scale heat dissipation, which poses a serious obstacle to the development of novel nanoscale devices. University of Michigan engineering researchers have, for the first time, established a general framework for understanding heat dissipation in several nanoscale systems. Credit: Enrique Shagun, Scixel.

In findings that could help overcome a major technological hurdle in the road toward smaller and more powerful electronics, an international research team involving University of Michigan engineering researchers, has shown the unique ways in which heat dissipates at the tiniest scales.

 

A paper on the research is published in the June 13 edition of Nature.

When a current passes through a material that conducts electricity, it generates heat. Understanding where the temperature will rise in an electronic system helps engineers design reliable, high-performing computers, cell phones and medical devices, for example. While heat generation in larger circuits is well understood, classical physics can’t describe the relationship between heat and electricity at the ultimate end of the nanoscale—where devices are approximately one nanometer in size and consist of just a few atoms.

Within the next two decades, computer science and engineering researchers are expected to be working at this “atomic” scale, according to Pramod Reddy, U-M assistant professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and engineeringwho led the research.

“At 20 or 30 nanometers in size, the active regions of today’s transistors have very small dimensions,” Reddy said. “However, if industry keeps pace with Moore’s law and continues shrinking the size of transistors to double their density on a circuit then atomic-scales are not far off.

“The most important thing then, is to understand the relationship between the heat dissipated and the electronic structure of the device, in the absence of which you can’t really leverage the atomic scale. This work gives insights into that for the first time.”

The researchers have shown experimentally how an atomic-scale system heats up, and how this differs from the process at the macroscale. They also devised a framework to explain the process.

Read more at: Phys.org

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