It’s no secret that sweat is pretty dirty. It is also extremely important. That’s because it helps the body regulate its temperature by keeping us cool in hot environments or when we perform strenuous activities. Although evolution has given us this way of cooling, high-tech devices are lagging behind. Instead of regulating their temperature in this way, computers usually rely on fans, who go into high gear when we try to perform a computer-intensive task.
Researchers from the Chinese Jiao Tong University in Shanghai believe that we should make high-tech devices more like mammals. With that in mind, they have developed a special sorbent coating for electronics that releases water vapor to dissipate heat from working devices. A sorbent is a substance that collects molecules of another substance through absorption. The result is an innovative new thermal management system that could help researchers think to keep electronic devices cooler than current approaches.
“The coating can capture moisture from the atmosphere during the off-peak period of electronics,” Chenxi Wang, a Ph.D. candidate who worked on the project, told Digital Trends. “In the following temperature-increasing period, the water in the sorbents is desorbed and at the same time a large amount of heat is extracted. The most important improvement of this method is that the sorbent coating can absorb heat several times compared to [phase-changing materials] of the same mass. It means that effective thermal management can be achieved for a longer period of time. “
A computer that sweats sounds a bit crazy. But Wang said it could prove incredibly useful. Active cooling methods such as fan-assisted forced convection consume energy. The extensive nature of fans also limits their application, so you will find a fan on your laptop, but not on your smartwatch.
Devices such as telephones make smart use of functions such as a copper heat sink. Because copper is a good conductor, it takes heat away from the components of the phone, while the shape of the thin copper metal plate means that it cools quickly thanks to its large surface. Other attempts to keep telephones cool include phase change materials such as waxes and fatty acids. These absorb heat produced by devices when they melt. But the total amount of energy that is exchanged during the transition from solid to liquid is relatively low. A special perspiring coating can therefore be a promising alternative.
“In our [recent work] we have demonstrated this technology on a micro-computer device,” Wang said. “We are now conducting more tests to extend this technology to more electronic devices, such as telephones, fast-charging batteries and [photovoltaic] modules. We work together with companies to evaluate the potential in practical commercial applications. “
A paper describing the project was published in the Cell Press magazine.
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