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IBM Tries to Tackle Nanotube Chip Cooling

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IBM researchers are exploring ways to improve heat management in carbon nanotube transistors to prevent the devices from self destructing. IBM's Phaedon Avouris says the researchers have discovered ways of measuring the temperatures of carbon nanotubes, which was not previously possible.

Carbon nanotubes need to be better understood before they can be used in electronic devices, and heat dissipation is one of their current limitations, Avouris says. Bunching carbon nanotubes together makes them too difficult to cool using only air, and excess heat hurts performance and could cause the nanotubes to self destruct. "The first step is we want to understand how electrons flow through this material, as it is completely different from the way electrons flow through silicon," he says.

Carbon nanotubes have unusual heating and dissipation mechanisms that could influence the development of nanotechnology. The researchers explored efficient ways of transferring heat from the nanotubes to the substrate with the aid of another carbon material in between the two. Avouris says the researchers' findings are of fundamental scientific importance, and will be crucial to the development of thermal management systems capable of regulating the heat of future carbon nanotube-based devices.

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