Washington, May 1 : Inefficient heat flow between materials acts as a major barrier to more powerful, efficient devices such as jet engines to personal electronics to nano-scale transistors. Now, a team of researchers led by University of Michigan mechanical engineer have set out to examine this problem.
The research group of nine scientists and engineers from three universities, including Brown University and the University of California at Santa Cruz, led by Kevin Pipe, an assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, has received a Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research.
"The processes by which heat is transferred at interfaces between different materials are poorly understood. But in many systems, the ability to either efficiently transfer or block heat flow from one material to another is critically important to performance and reliability," said Pipe.
Inefficient heat flow is the major hindrance in the development of lasers and transistors that can attain higher powers. In contrast, blocking heat exchange can result in a dramatic improvement in the efficiency of thermoelectric energy conversion for compact power sources.
The team will be making use of ultrafast lasers in a special X-ray technique, which will enable them to actually watch the vibrations of the atoms that carry heat energy across an interface.
The researchers will reengineer the surfaces of materials to regulate the flow of heat by using nanotechnology.
"A broad range of military and commercial applications stand to benefit from thermal interface control, including heat sinks for high-power electronics, thermal barrier coatings for aerospace components, and thermoelectric materials for power generation," said Pipe.