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Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, have found that graphene-based heat pipes can help solve the problems of cooling electronics and power systems used in avionics, data centres, and other power electronics

“Heat pipes are one of the most efficient tools for this purpose, because of their high efficiency and unique ability to transfer heat over a large distance,” said Johan Liu, professor of Electronics Production, at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers. The results, which also involved researchers in China and Italy, were recently published in the scientific Open Access journal Nano Select.

Electronics and data centres need to be cooled efficiently to function properly. Graphene-enhanced heat pipes can solve these problems. At present, the heat pipes are usually made of copper, aluminium or alloys. Due to the relatively high density and limited heat transfer capacity of these materials, heat pipes will face serious challenges in future power plants and data centres.

Large data centres providing digital banking services and video streaming websites are extremely energy-intensive and environmentally responsible for more emissions than the aviation industry. It is, therefore, vital to reduce the climate footprint of this industry. Research findings could make a significant contribution to energy efficiency in these data centres and other applications as well.

The graphene-enhanced heat pipe has a specific thermal transfer coefficient approximately 3.5 times higher than copper-based heat pipe. New findings pave the way for graphene-enhanced heat pipes in lightweight and high-capacity cooling applications, as required in many applications such as avionics, automotive electronics, laptop computers, handsets, data centres and space electronics.

Graphene-enhanced heat pipes are made of high thermal conductivity graphene film assembled with carbon fibre wicker reinforced inner surfaces. The researchers tested pipes with an outer diameter of 6mm and a length of 150mm. They show great advantages and potential for cooling a variety of electronics and power systems, especially where low weight and high corrosion resistance are required.

“The condenser section, the cold part of the graphene-enhanced heat pipe, can be substituted by a heat sink or a fan to make the cooling even more efficient when applied in a real case,” explained Ya Liu, PhD student at the Electronics Materials and Systems Laboratory at Chalmers.

The new study is based on a collaboration between researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Fudan University, Shanghai University, China, SHT Smart High-Tech AB, Sweden and Marche Polytechnic University, Italy.

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