A new material with the same thermal conductivity as diamond has been discovered, and may revolutionize passive cooling in electronics.

nrlresearche 300x88 Researchers discover new way of cooling electronics

When electric current flows through electronic components, they heat up. When they heat up, the components in turn begin to degrade. Physicists at the US Naval Research Laboratory and Boston College have discovered a new way to keep electronic components cool, using a material called cubic boron arsenide. Cubic boron arsenide is an extremely efficient heat conductor, and apparently transfers heat even more effectively than diamond, which is the best thermal conductor to date.

Unlike metals, in which heat is carried by traveling electrons, both diamond and boron arsenide are electrical insulators. They carry the heat through the vibrational waves of their atoms (phonons). Boron arsenide was calculated as having remarkable room-temperature thermal conductivity after a predictive “first-principles” approach by the research team.Indeed, the material was found to have heat conductivity of over 2000 Watts per meter per Kelvin. This value is comparable to the thermal conductivity of diamond, which suffers from much slower production rates.

The reason for the high thermal conductance lies in the material’s vibrational properties. There is far less scattering of the vibrational waves in cubic boron arsenide than is usually found in electrical insulators, and that in turn means more heat can be transported through it.

200px B12As2 3D side view Researchers discover new way of cooling electronics

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“If these exciting results are verified by experiment, it will open new opportunities for passive cooling applications with boron arsenide, and it would demonstrate the important role that such theoretical work can play in providing guidance to identify new high thermal conductivity materials,” said physicist Dr. Thomas L. Reinecke.