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Future mobile phones could SWEAT to keep them cool

Mobile phones in the future could SWEAT to keep cool thanks to a perspiring material just three times as thick as a human hair

  • Chinese scientists created a metal-based coating for electronic devices 
  • It releases water as it warms up which then evaporates and removes excess heat 
  • System is currently too expensive for widespread application but could be applied in future to handheld gadgets  

Scientists are one step closer to creating a phone that sweats when it gets too hot in order to cool itself down.  

Many mammals, including humans, perspire liquid which cools the surface down when it evaporates. 

A metal-based coating just three times the thickness of a human hair has been created which keep the running temperature of electronics down by releasing water.

As this turns to gas and evaporates, it takes with it the excess heat produced by the electronics.  

Scientists in China who developed the innovative method say it is currently too expensive for widespread use but shows promise for future application.  

It could be applied to all technology, including handheld electronic devices such as tablets and phones, and help avoid overheating. 

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To investigate the cooling effect of MIL-101(Cr) on actual devices, the researchers lathered their sweaty material on a computer chip. Compared to an uncoated chip, the coated one reduced the chip temperature by up to 7°C when the device was run for 15 minutes (pictured)

To investigate the cooling effect of MIL-101(Cr) on actual devices, the researchers lathered their sweaty material on a computer chip. Compared to an uncoated chip, the coated one reduced the chip temperature by up to 7°C when the device was run for 15 minutes (pictured)

Senior author Ruzhu Wang, who studies refrigeration engineering at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, said: ”The development of microelectronics puts great demands on efficient thermal management techniques, because all the components are tightly packed and chips can get really hot.

‘For example, without an effective cooling system, our phones could have a system breakdown and burn our hands if we run them for a long time or load a big application.’

Mammals sweat to regulate body temperature, and researchers from Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China were inspired by this mechanism. 

Current methods to keep electronics cool include using fans or phase change materials (PCMs), such as waxes and fatty acids, that melt when the heat increases — soaking up the excess thermal energy. 

But transients claim this approach is relatively inefficient, and the transition of water from liquid to gas has the ability to dissipate ten times that amount of energy.  

A metal-based material (pictured coated in a layer just three times the thickness of a human hair helps keep the running temperature of electronics cooler for longer, according to Chinese scientists

A metal-based material (pictured coated in a layer just three times the thickness of a human hair helps keep the running temperature of electronics cooler for longer, according to Chinese scientists 

Researchers say the current expense makes it It could be applied to all technology, including handheld electronic devices such as tablets and phones, and help avoid overheating (file photo)

Researchers say the current expense makes it It could be applied to all technology, including handheld electronic devices such as tablets and phones, and help avoid overheating (file photo)

In a study published today in the journal Joule, the authors publish their results which used less than 0.3 grams of material and achieved ‘significant’ results. 

They coated three 16-square-centimetre aluminium sheets with a metal-based coating designed to sweat. 

Called MIL-101(Cr), it was applied to three chips, each with different thicknesses —198, 313 and 516 micrometers — and heated them on a hot plate. 

The average width of a human hair is 75micrometres. 

An uncoated sheet reached 60°C after 5.2 minutes, where as a chip with the thinnest coating took twice this amount of time and didn’t reach 60°C until 11.7 minutes had elapsed. 

The sheet with the thickest coating reached the 60°C mark after 19.35 minutes of heating.   

‘In addition to effective cooling, MIL-101(Cr) can quickly recover by absorbing moisture again once the heat source is removed, just like how mammals rehydrate and ready to sweat again,’ Wang says. 

‘So, this method is really suitable for devices that aren’t running all the time, like phones, charging batteries and telecommunications base stations, which can get overloaded sometimes.’ 

To investigate the cooling effect of MIL-101(Cr) on actual devices, the researchers lathered their sweaty material on a computer chip.  

Compared to an uncoated chip, the coated one reduced the chip temperature by up to 7°C when the device was run at heavy workloads for 15 minutes. 



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