May 16, 2002
Cool Chips unveils nanotech cooling devices
Gibraltar-based business Cool Chips has revealed prototypes of its nanotechnology-based cooling devices. The chips, which were unveiled at the Nanotech Planet Conference in San Jose, US, use quantum mechanical electron tunnelling.
“We have made multiple prototypes that show a tunnelling current in excess of 10 A, using a wafer area of approximately 9 sq. cm,” said Isaiah Cox, president of Cool Chips. “This is by far the largest tunnelling current that has ever been reported across a gap, and we expect Cool Chips to make the first use of this quantum tunnelling effect in a primary commercial application.”
The devices create a cooling effect by moving high-energy (“hot”) electrons across a narrow (1–10 nm) gap between two materials under the influence of a voltage. Unlike other cooling techniques that use electron migration, heat is unable to transfer back by conduction because of the presence of the gap.
Cool Chips says that such thermotunnelling has not been done before because nobody imagined that it was possible to get large surface areas close to each other without them making occasional contact.
The chips could have applications in electronics, infrared sensors, computer components, refrigeration and air-conditioning: an array of Cool Chips electrodes arranged 50 angstroms apart has a theoretical cooling capacity of 5000 W/sq. cm. In comparison, the next generation of microprocessors will produce more than 100 W of heat per square centimetre.
Cool Chips says that it is using its current prototypes to increase the quantum tunnelling and has not directly measured cooling. Once the tunnelling output has reached “a certain level”, Cool Chips scientists will begin increasing cooling output.
Cool Chips is a majority-owned subsidiary of Borealis Exploration Limited.
About the author
Liz Kalaugher is editor of nanotechweb.org.