Scientists have developed a new water droplet system that may help in keeping our electronics like laptops and mobile phones cool. The new system aims to fill the insides of the electronics with bouncing water droplets.
The method developed by researchers at the Duke University and Intel Corporation is made to specially identify hot spots in high-performance electronics. The mechanism is based on the super-hydrophobic wings of cicada insects that naturally repel water.
"A better cooling system will enable faster computers, longer-lasting electronics and more powerful electric vehicles," says Chuan-Hua Chen one of the researchers from the team.
How does it work?
When water droplets merge on a super-hydrophobic surface, the loss in surface area releases enough energy to make them jump up off the surface.
A similar phenomenon happens on the wings of cicadas as the energy release is responsible to lift the water off the wing's surface, taking dust and dirt with it and making the wings self-cleaning.
Applying the same technique the researchers created a sealed vapour chamber made of a super-hydrophobic floor with a sponge-like ceiling. When placed beneath operating electronics the vapour condenses into small water droplets that fall onto the super-hydrophobic floor.
Then the tiny droplets turn into bigger droplets and jump off the surface, taking heat with them.
These droplets then jump toward hotspots where the water vapour will condense first.
What's new and how is it better?
While there are already cooling techniques in place for electronics, the new technology has certain advantages over them. Thermoelectric coolers that are widely used in electronics cannot target hotspot locations, rendering them inefficient for use over large areas. While some approaches can target hotspots they need additional power inputs.
The new droplet cooling technology also has a built-in mechanism for vertical heat escape, something missing in heat spreaders already in use.
"Computer processors and power electronics don't perform as well if waste heat cannot be removed. A better cooling system will enable faster computers, longer-lasting electronics and more powerful electric vehicles," say Chen.
The mechanism is still at an early stage as the main challenge is to find suitable materials that work with high-heat vapour over long term. The team is hopeful it will be able to find a practical way of developing this technique for industrial use and says it can performance of electronics across the board including electric cars.