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Electronics: Microchips with inbuilt cooling

Nature

September 10, 2020

An integrated liquid cooling system within a microchip demonstrates exceptional cooling performance when compared with conventional electronics cooling methods, reports a paper in Nature this week. Embedding liquid cooling directly inside electronic chips is a promising sustainable and cost-effective approach to control the heat generated by electronics.

Cooling of electronic circuits becomes challenging as demand for smaller devices increases. Water systems can be used to cool electronics, but this cooling can be inefficient and has an increasingly large environmental impact. For example, data centres in the United States alone use 24 terawatt-hours of electricity and 100 billion litres of water for cooling per year, which is comparable to the consumption needs of a city of the size of Philadelphia.

Embedding liquid cooling into microchips is an attractive approach, but current designs involve separate fabrication chips and cooling systems, limiting the efficiency of the cooling system. Elison Matioli and colleagues describe an integrated approach in which microfluidics-based heat sinks are designed in conjunction with the electronics and made within the same semiconductor substrate. The cooling power is up to 50 times greater than that of conventional designs, the authors report. They conclude that by removing the need for large external heatsinks, this approach could also enable more compact electronic devices, such as power converters, to be integrated onto a single chip.

doi: 10.1038/s41586-020-2666-1

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