New graphene breakthrough will keep your future phones cooler

Graphene will cool laptops of the future

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have developed a cooling system that takes advantage of graphene's effect on silicon-based electronics. It should lead to a considerable reduction in energy usage.

Getting rid of excess heat is a constant problem for consumer electronics manufacturers - according to a US study, half of the energy required to run computer servers is used for cooling purposes.

A few years back the Chalmers team, led by Johan Liu, successfully showed that graphene has a cooling effect on silicon electronics. But they had trouble getting it working, as the graphene wouldn't stick to the silicon surface.

The name's Bond. Silane Bond.

The solution came in the addition of an extra molecule which could bond properly. "We have now solved this problem by managing to create strong covalent [silane] bonds between the graphene film and the surface, which is an electronic component made of silicon," Liu said.

After testing the bonded graphene, they found it was able to achieve thermal conductivity levels of 1600 W/mK. That's four times the thermal conductivity of copper, the most commonly used heat-sink material.

"Graphene-based film could pave the way for faster, smaller, more energy efficient, sustainable high power electronics," said Liu. Details of the breakthrough were published in the journal Advanced Functional Materials.

Duncan Geere
Duncan Geere is TechRadar's science writer. Every day he finds the most interesting science news and explains why you should care. You can read more of his stories here, and you can find him on Twitter under the handle @duncangeere.