Most people know that when you flow an electric current through a wire, the wire heats up. Most of our readers will also know that heat is the killer of many of our favorite electronic devices. That's why this new discovery by the University of Maryland is very pertinent to our cause. It's uses could allow for more efficient heat dissipation.
Kamal H. Baloch, Norvik Voskanian, Merijntje Bronsgeest, and John Cumings found that they could outsmart the traditional "Joule heating" and have the heat dissipate into the substrate rather than into the wire. This is due to a process they have dubbed "remote Joule heating." When an electric current flows through a carbon nanotube, the heat will go into the material that the nanotube is sitting upon.
The researchers determined that as much as 84 percent of the power in the nanotube was transferred to the substrate. In the nanoscale that they were working on, it was a bit hard to determine just where the heat was going. They had to use electron thermal microscopy (EThM) in order to figure it out.
The researchers postulate that the electrons are passing the energy along via their electric field. The nanotubes are capable of carrying high density currents, and as such, Baloch et al. suspect this kind of remote heat dissipation could be very useful in future electronic devices. If the heat can be dumped out to a different material than the circuit, this could prove to be very useful.