Scientists find new way to cool electronics

The schematic of liquid film boiling, where both vibrant bubbles inside the liquid film and the evaporation atop dissipate the heat. Credit: Science China Press.

In the modern world, electronic devices, from smartphones to electric vehicles and even airplanes, have faced overheating issues that sometimes lead to fires.

As these devices become more powerful, they generate more heat, which can cause failures if not managed properly.

Over half of electronic device failures are due to inadequate heat management. To address this, researchers are constantly seeking better ways to cool down these devices effectively.

One promising approach is using liquid-vapor phase-change cooling. This method involves cooling devices by boiling or evaporating liquids, much like how water boils.

Immersion cooling, for example, submerges electronic components in a liquid to keep them cool.

However, traditional methods using just boiling or evaporation are no longer sufficient for today’s high-power electronics.

Professor Ronggui Yang and his team have pioneered a technique called capillary-driven liquid film boiling.

This method uses a specially designed surface that generates boiling bubbles in a thin film of evaporating liquid.

The surface, often less than 1 millimeter thick, combines the benefits of both boiling and evaporation. This dual approach has proven to be extremely effective, surpassing traditional cooling methods.

Despite the advancements, designing these surfaces has been largely based on trial and error rather than scientific principles.

This is due to the complex nature of how liquids and vapors behave and interact during the cooling process, which involves dynamic changes in bubbles and liquid films.

Additionally, the various textured surfaces used to enhance this process add another layer of complexity, making it difficult to predict their effectiveness in dissipating heat.

To overcome these challenges, a team at Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, led by Professor Yang, has developed a high-fidelity model.

This model can accurately predict how well different textured surfaces can manage heat through liquid film boiling.

The results from the model have shown excellent agreement with experimental data, which means it can reliably predict the cooling performance of these surfaces.

This breakthrough model can forecast not only how much heat will be dissipated but also the surface temperature during the process. This allows for the optimization of surface designs to achieve the best cooling performance possible.

The ability to predict these outcomes is crucial for developing effective cooling strategies for the next generation of electronic devices.

With this new model, researchers can now design high-performance cooling surfaces more efficiently, paving the way for safer and more reliable electronics.

This advancement is a significant step in ensuring that as our devices become increasingly powerful, they can remain cool and functional in all conditions.