Scientists at Stanford University demonstrated in their latest research how atomically thin materials are capable of controlling excess heat flow. Specifically, how a few stacked layers of these very, very thin insulators are capable of functioning well as a heat shield for critically important electronic components.
Standard materials used to provide heat shields to current mobile electronics include common insulators such as glass or plastic. These are typically wedged between the external layers to prevent other more heat-sensitive components from getting too hot. Air is also used, sometimes even combined with the aforementioned insulators.
What the researchers from Standford University have discovered, is that the same heat-shielding properties of these components can also be adequately provided by very thin materials sandwiched together in a certain configuration. Thin, as in only being several atoms thick.
Due to this ultra-thin profile, the makeshift heat shield was much more compact by several hundred times than other standard insulators. Yes, even if several layers of the material are stacked together.
As for why exactly this new material configuration works well as a heat shield, the explanation provided was that the atomically thin insulators act as barriers against sound. Yes, sound, not heat, at least not directly.
Part of the heat that is produced on electronics is due to the microscopic vibrational motion of the material, which then comes from electrons that are bouncing off as they travel through the conductive medium.
The 10-atom thick layers of material prevent these vibrational motions from getting through, in much the same way heat or sound attempting to go through a multi-paned window. Indeed, the window example was stated to have been the inspiration that eventually led to the results of this particular research.
What is the biggest advantage of this discovery, you ask?. If implemented on an industrial scale, this may introduce electronic systems for gadgets that can shave off their profiles even thinner, due to no longer requiring the use of current standard “thick” heat shielding.
Also, while Stanford University researchers did not mention its potential use in foldable electronics, this discovery may well help in designing better bendable gadgets. This is simply due to combined default properties of the chosen material as well as its super thinness.
Lastly, as a more advanced type of heat shield that the one currently used on smartphones, it may also help in preventing certain manufacturing-related disasters, such as the major fiasco surrounding Samsung’s exploding Galaxy Note 7 phones last 2017.