The difficulty of keeping computer chips cool is one of the most immediate challenges for the IT industry. Researchers at IBMs Zurich lab are using nano-scale technologies to make self-contained water-cooling systems that are much smaller and can handle much higher power densities than the air-cooled copper heatsinks in use today.
Nanoscale devices are made of components that measure less than 100nm. A nanometre is equivalent to one billionth of a metre.
Dr Bruno Michel, manager of advanced thermal packaging research at the Zurich lab, said the paste between the chip and the heatsink, called the thermal interface material (TIM), currently accounts for 50 percent of the thermal resistance of chip-cooling systems. The TIM is needed because the silicon chip and the copper heatsink have different thermal expansion coefficients, so they can not be directly joined together.
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