While nanotechnology tools have enabled the shrinking of chip features well below the somewhat arbitrary 100nm threshold that often defines nanotechnology, this continuing reduction of chip features is causing a lot of problems brought on from excessive heat.
Carbon nanotubes that offer a pumpless liquid cooling system and a design for graphene that manages heat in electronics application are a few of the nanomaterials to be offered recently as a solution to this problem.
The latest report is that researchers at Tyndall National Institute in collaboration with Stokes Research Institute and the University of Limerick in Ireland have developed a novel nanomaterial based on a nanowire that reportedly provides at least a 50% better thermal performance than any other material on the market.
The nanowire-based material achieves its performance by reducing the thermal contact resistance between the chip itself and its heatsink by filling in the voids that are typically created when two materials come in contact.
The context in which this research was announced is interesting since it was presented at the International Power Supply on Chip Workshop in Cork, Ireland, in which big names like Damien Callaghan, Investment Director of Intel Capital and Chairman of the Advisory Board of the recently announced 500-million-dollar Investment Ireland Fund, were present. Based on that it would seem this research might receive some funding to further its commercialization.
Dexter Johnson is a contributing editor at IEEE Spectrum, with a focus on nanotechnology.