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Graphene Materials Faster, Cheaper at Cooling Electronics

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

Graphene molecular illustration (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)

A materials scientist at North Carolina State University in Durham has created a new way of cooling high-temperature electronic devices with composites made of graphene. The work of Jag Kasichainula, a professor of materials science and engineering at NC State, appears in the journal Metallurgical and Materials Transactions B (paid subscription required).

Graphene is a material configured as a layer of carbon atoms arranged in a hexagonal lattice, with unusual qualities of strength and conductivity which make it a versatile ingredient for a range of potential electronics, communications, and industrial products.

Kasichainula’s technique, developed through a grant from National Science Foundation,  makes use of a copper-graphene composite that dissipates heat generated by electronic devices. The copper-graphene heat spreader attaches with an interface film, also made of a graphene-based material, in this case an indium-graphene composite.

“Both the copper-graphene and indium-graphene have higher thermal conductivity, allowing the device to cool efficiently,” says Kasichainula. Thermal conductivity is the rate at which a material conducts heat. Kasichainula used a standard three-omega technique to measure thermal properties of wires and films. He found the copper-graphene film’s thermal conductivity allows it to cool approximately 25 percent faster than pure copper, which is what most devices currently use.

The journal paper describes as well a process to prepare the the copper-graphene composite, using electrochemical codeposition from a copper sulfate solution with a graphene oxide suspension. “The copper-graphene composite is also low-cost and easy to produce,” says Kasichainula. “Copper is expensive, so replacing some of the copper with graphene actually lowers the overall cost.”

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