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Hardware Science Technology

Copper-Graphene Nanocomposite Cools Electronics Faster & Cheaper 56

Posted by Soulskill
from the miles-davis-of-nanocomposites dept.
samazon writes "North Carolina State University researcher Jag Kasichainula has developed a 'heat spreader' to cool electronics more efficiently using a copper-graphene composite, which is attached using an indium-graphene interface film. According to Kasichainula, the technique will cool 25% faster than pure copper and will cost less to produce than the copper plate heat spreaders currently used by most electronics (abstract). Better performance at a lower cost? Let's hope so."
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Copper-Graphene Nanocomposite Cools Electronics Faster & Cheaper

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    you mom's got better performance at a lower cost. thanks! I'll be here all week.

  • What's next? Leaping tall buildings in a single bound?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      No, probably soon to be named super carcinogen responsible for the death of thousands.

  • by pla (258480) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:40PM (#39636365) Journal
    First, this sounds great - Cheaper and better (plus the "Now with Graphene(tm)" factor), what not to like?

    That said, we've heard about dozens of better way to cool chips, from chips where the heat sink passes through the die, to silicon with fluid channels, to built-in peltiers, to microturbines, etc.

    These all have the potential to dramatically improve cooling while reducing the cost to do so... And they all have the same glaring flaw - Where do I buy one?
    • by ArcherB (796902)

      First, this sounds great - Cheaper and better (plus the "Now with Graphene(tm)" factor), what not to like?
      ?

      Don't forget the cool buzzword "Nanocomposite". You can't go wrong that kind of synergy!

      • Don't forget, the patent fee will more than make up the difference of any reduction of manufacturing cost.

    • All of the above would involve Intel or AMD building them into the chip, which they have no plan on doing... So I'm guessing no where. This can be made by currently producing heatsink manufacturers... which means I'd give it a year or two and you'll start seeing them.

      I'm not sure about the interface film, but that may be made into a TIM pad or you might start seeing graphene thermal compounds. Either way this is quite a bit different then the other examples you listed.
    • by Amouth (879122)

      agreeded - i want this mixed with the extremely impressive heat sink/fan design where the majority of the heat sink was spun as the blades rather than a fan forcing air on to a surface area..

      http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/onepercent/2011/07/new-heat-sink-could-slash-us-e.html [newscientist.com]

      http://prod.sandia.gov/techlib/access-control.cgi/2010/100258.pdf [sandia.gov]

      Which should be an extremely cheap design to licence if not free as it was published by a government agency. it's more than 2 years old, requires no new tech to be bu

      • by xeromist (443780)

        Well, we may actually see some progress. Supposedly Sandia had a demo day in November where they invited "Potential licensees and commercialization partners" [fbo.gov]

        • by Amouth (879122)

          thanks for the update, i'd not heard about that. i've been tempted to go to the local tech shop and try to build a rather large one and give it a run on a small AC unit and an see how well it works.. if their numbers work out it should prove to be a very good tech, and should be cheap but we all know that woln't happen.

    • I don't think they would be able scale production for common use anyway. IIRC indium is in short supply with the overwhelming majority of it coming from China.
  • 25% faster than pure copper and will cost less to produce

    ...in much the same way that diamonds, being composed of carbon, cost less than copper.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Industrial diamond is not terribly expensive. It can be had for about 2 grand per kilo. Admittedly this is a good deal more than copper, but this graphene composite may be cheaper to manufacture than diamond.

  • How much will I be able to overclock my videocard with this technology?
  • Interesting. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jd (1658) <imipak&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:48PM (#39636457) Homepage Journal

    The biggest obstacle to higher clock speeds has been getting rid of the heat (which is why supercooled processors can be overclocked to 7 GHz). This could potentially lead to adding another GHz to clock speeds of domestic computers, perhaps 2 per node for top-end supercomputers. That's valuable, for although multicores are good, there just aren't that many decent parallel programmers out there. I (and a few others) find parallel programming easy but the vast majority of coders in the world got into the field as a way to get rich quick and aren't adept at anything beyond Visual Basic or the most trivial aspects of Java.

    Badly-coded programs won't run better on multi-way chips, but can be forced to run faster on faster chips, so the only way to compensate for the lack of skill is to crank up the clock, which is only possible if you can avoid the chip cooking itself.

    • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Interesting)

      by ZankerH (1401751) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:51PM (#39636497)
      No, the biggest obstacle to higher clock speeds is the speed of light. At 1 GHz, information can only propagate around 30cm per processor cycle. If die sizes remain around 1 cm square, it's physically impossible to go above 30 GHz (give or take).
      • by jd (1658)

        That's a terminal barrier for synchronous chips, but it's not an obstacle at the puny 3GHz speeds we're currently operating with (especially as overclockers have already established the same chips are capable of 7GHz without issues).

        By the time we get to 30 GHz, we may well be working with 3D chips. Furthermore, you don't need a standardized clock for asynchronous chips and async CPUs already exist. (There's even a program to help you design them listed on Freshmeat.)

      • Take a look at pipelines and all the other processor design techniques develpped after the 80's.

      • Two corrections:

        1. Speed of light in a wire is at best 0.7c, typically .5c-.65c depending upon the material. So, cut your propagation distances accordingly.

        2. As another poster suggested, that's only a limit for fully synchronous designs. Async (clockless) and semi-synchronous (partially asych with some clocking) designs are limited by switching times and feature density (which is related to both the speed of light and the gate size, but it's less rigidly limited than in synchronous designs).

        • by ZankerH (1401751)

          1. Speed of light in a wire is at best 0.7c, typically .5c-.65c depending upon the material. So, cut your propagation distances accordingly.

          That can be fixed by replacing electronic processors with purely optical electronics.

          • The speed of light in an optical fiber is also about .7c. So, you can only improve this if you have optical electronics that use air/gas/partial vacuum tubes/channels as the transmission medium. Speed of light in air is >.999c and will be similar for other gases at/below ATM.

      • by ewieling (90662)
        I would be happy with 15Ghz.
    • by Hentes (2461350)

      It's not just about coding skill, some algorithms simply can't be paralellised.

      • by jd (1658)

        That is perfectly true, but many algorithms can be (and aren't). Even when algorithms have to be serialized, those algorithms generally form a small part of the overall program. (If you were to draw out a timing diagram for a program after the fashion of critical path analysis, you'd see lots of bits of work that don't need to be done sequentially. There isn't a serial list of dependencies, in the general case, for a complete program from start to end.)

        Even knowing where things can be done in parallel isn't

    • by geekoid (135745)

      no. Barring the upper limit and excluding theoretical quantum device, the other bar keeping speeds stagnant is the fabs.
      Fabricating the level of density without leaking is very hard.
      Fabs are very ex[pensive to built.
      Add to the the consumer need for faster clocks has tapered off, it's not worth the expense of massive retooling.

      When they can get the metal well below 1 part per billion in the fabs, and create a process to minimize wafer breakage for wafer being cut so precisely, then we may see a doubling of c

      • by jd (1658)

        For doubling, you're correct. But I'm talking a 25-33% increase in clock speeds, not a 100-200% increase. And there's a far worse increase in leakage dropping from 35nm to 22nm than going from 3GHz to 4GHz (the proof of which is that you CAN run a Core2Duo at 7GHz reliably - which would be absolutely impossible if leakage was causing significant errors at that speed).

        Fabrication AS IT STANDS is capable of making a 7GHz chip - we know this because the chips they produce can be run at that speed. The problem

      • Re:Interesting. (Score:4, Insightful)

        by Calos (2281322) on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @07:27PM (#39638349)

        Fabricating the level of density without leaking is very hard.

        It's impossible. There is always leakage. Yes, as you scale, the leakage does grow, both empirically and as a signal/noise problem. But there are ways to minimize this. This has been foreseen for some time, and a lot of research goes into ways to mitigate it. Despite all the improvements made sub-surface - that is, how the semiconductor itself is altered - to allow scaling and improve efficiency, and how the tools and methods to make the devices have improved... the industry really hasn't had any radical changes in many years. It has been all planar designs that date back to the 70's. Sure, the materials have improved, and it's not entirely silicon any more... but still planar, and subject to some fundamental limits of the planar design and the substrate choice. That's why Intel is pushing into 3d designs. Do some reading on FINFETs, and the benefits of them, especially with respect to leakage and control. And that can still be silicon based, and doesn't push at all into heterogeneous semiconductor systems.

          Fabs are very ex[pensive to built.
        Add to the the consumer need for faster clocks has tapered off, it's not worth the expense of massive retooling.

        Oh [intel.com], really [xbitlabs.com]? Why are the industry giants doing it, then? Smaller die - this improves speed and potential clock, can improve power efficiency, means more die/wafer or more advanced designs. Ability to do different etches, deposit different films, etc., to improve device characteristics.

        Clockspeed isn't everything anyway, or we'd still be using the Pentium 4 chips that were pushing 4 GHz from the manufacturer, and not the 2 GHz-range Core 2/iX chips. Smart design can trump clockspeed. (I use Intel as an example here because they had the more recent significant architecture change which illustrates this point very well.) We could, y'know, go back to making Pentiums... with current manufacturing technology, we might make them, what, 1/8 the size? Could probably clock them at several GHz.

        When they can get the metal well below 1 part per billion in the fabs, and create a process to minimize wafer breakage for wafer being cut so precisely, then we may see a doubling of clock speed 2 more times. Then that will be it.

        What makes you think metal contaminants and wafer breakage are the limiting factors to clockspeed scaling? And from where do you get a "doubling of clock speed 2 more times" from? What are you considering the base clockspeed that you are multiplying? Seems like you're pulling it out of your ass. Think about it. We're doing 3 GHz+ already. Doubling that puts us in the 6-8 GHz range. Doubling again puts us in the 12-16 GHz range. That's what people above are claiming as the fundamental limit in a synchronous chip by the limit of the propagation of a signal in a metal. The speed of light in metal is in no way the limiting factor in clockspeed. That would be the case for a single wire in isolation. There are other effects, namely capacitive coupling, in a chip where you are wiring up billions of transistors, which are much more limiting. And we're tallking wires of non-negligible resistance here - if you want to put a bunch of small transistors close together, you need to be able to make really thin metal wires to connect to make the right connections. Assuming metal is the only interconnect, of course, and completely ignoring all the research into optical interconnects...

    • although multicores are good, there just aren't that many decent parallel programmers out there. I (and a few others) find parallel programming easy

      That's why languages like Scala [scala-lang.org] are so appealing.

      Sure, there's no silver bullet to automagically solve all parallel programming problems, but languages like Scala have features like Parallel Collections libraries [scala-lang.org], functional programming and Parallel Domain Specific Languages [scala-lang.org] that can abstract enough of the problems of parallel programming away that journeyman programmers have a decent chance of being able to work effectively with multiple cores [lampwww.epfl.ch].

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      I (and a few others) find parallel programming easy

      Of course you do, which is why you know that not all tasks lend themselves to parallelization, and that even tasks which can be parallelized generally have a point after which the overhead adds more work than time saved. Parallel processing is a great tool to have, but that doesn't make it the right tool for every job.

      • by Bengie (1121981)

        I (and a few others) find parallel programming easy

        I think parallel programming is easy and I don't understand all the trouble people have with it. The biggest issues is debugging, but as long as you have clear and concise entry and exits in your code, it is just a matter of time to track down the issue. Unit testing + modular code = win

  • Graphene (Score:5, Insightful)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland&yahoo,com> on Tuesday April 10, 2012 @04:56PM (#39636565) Homepage Journal

    it's the new plastic.

    • At least you can see plastic. We've been talking about graphene for years and I still haven't even heard of a product that uses it.

  • Imagine a spinning [slashdot.org] copper-graphene heat sink!

  • Upon learning of this, I thought it a clever idea for a next step in addressing the heat issue - at the level of rack servers; data centers; etc.

    http://www.seamicro.com/ [seamicro.com]

    Not your One Ring that Rules Them All but some problems (most) need to be attacked in pieces.

  • That puts it higher than silver, but not as high as diamond, and quite far below pure graphene.

    Why not just use pure graphene, which has has a thermal conductivity about 10x as high as copper/silver?
    • Probably because their graphene is polycrystaline (if one can call them crystals) and this composite is actualy better at conducting heat from one crystal to the other than pure graphene. But I'm not sure, as I didn't read the scientific article.

      Anyway, comparing the heat conductivity of this polycrystaline material with monocrystaline graphene is useless.

      • by tmosley (996283)
        Thanks, that makes sense. Graphene only conducts electricity within the plane, so it would make sense that that would be the case for heat as well.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Phew. I will have less meth addicts breaking into my computers and trying to scrap the copper from my CPU heatsinks.
  • Graphite heat straps are already common practice in Space and Aerospace roles. You think your overclocked gaming machine/room heater has problems? Try dissipating heat in a vacuum when there's nothing to convect.
    http://www.techapps.com/thermal-straps.html [techapps.com]

  • After spending thousands of euros on many various cooling systems across the years, I can tell you which one is the most effective:
    The good old home air conditioning.

    Perhaps reducing the power consumption may beat the environment as the number 1 factor. We don't need more and more sophisticated cooling systems, we need less power consumption and good environment.

  • Carbon nanocomposite heatsinks have been in my LED panels for a couple of years. I've got an AlC composite that pushes roughly 560wmk.

Thus spake the master programmer: "After three days without programming, life becomes meaningless." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"

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