An illustration of a graphene heat pipe, showing how it transfers heat. Image: Ya Liu/Johan Liu/Chalmers University of Technology.
An illustration of a graphene heat pipe, showing how it transfers heat. Image: Ya Liu/Johan Liu/Chalmers University of Technology.

Researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden have found that graphene-based heat pipes can efficiently cool the electronics and power systems used in avionics, data centers and other power electronics. They report their findings in a paper in Nano Select.

"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," says Johan Liu, professor of electronics production in the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers.

Electronics and data centres need to be efficiently cooled in order to work properly. At the moment, heat pipes are usually made of copper or aluminum, or their alloys. But due to the relatively high density and limited heat transmission capacity of these materials, they will struggle to meet the cooling demands of future power devices and data centers.

The large data centres that deliver services such as digital banking and video streaming are extremely energy-intensive, responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the aviation industry. Reducing the climate footprint of this industry is therefore vital. The researchers' discoveries could help to improve the energy efficiency of these data centres, as well as prove of use in many other applications.

The researchers found that their graphene-enhanced heat pipe exhibits a specific thermal transfer coefficient that is about 3.5 times higher than that of a copper-based heat pipe. These new findings pave the way for using graphene-enhanced heat pipes in lightweight and large-capacity cooling applications, as required in applications such as avionics, automotive electronics, laptop computers, handsets, data centers and space electronics.

The graphene-enhanced heat pipes are made from high thermal conductivity, graphene-assembled films with carbon-fiber-wicker-enhanced inner surfaces. The researchers tested pipes with an outer diameter of 6mm and a length of 150mm, which showed great 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," explains Ya Liu, a PhD student in the Electronics Materials and Systems Laboratory at Chalmers.

This story is adapted from material from Chalmers University of Technology, with editorial changes made by Materials Today. The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of Elsevier. Link to original source.