Deakin University breakthrough tackles overheating phones

Scientists from Deakin’s Institute for Frontier Materials (IFM) has partnered with researchers from Northern Ireland and Japan to pioneer a highly thermal conductive and chemically stable material to help combat overheating issues in mobile devices.

Dr Luhua Li, IFM researcher, and Dr Qiran Cai, Alfred Deakin postdoctoral research fellow, says heat management has become more critical, especially in miniaturised modern devices.

“Heat management is quite important, you can feel and hear it when your device is overheating and not working efficiently, when your phone gets hot to the touch or your laptop’s internal fan kicks into overdrive,” Li said.

“With increasing demand in miniaturisation and emerging technology such as foldable phones, micro-machines, and wearable devices, thermal cooling has become critical for the performance, reliability, longevity, and safety of various products.”

Li says that while scientists have come up with alternatives to aluminium and copper, diamond and boron arsenide has been too rigid and inflexible, and researchers needed another material to fill the gap.

Taking a chemical compound known as boron nitride (BN) and shaving it down, Deakin researchers were able to imbue the material with desired flexibility while dramatically increasing its thermal conductivity and cooling capabilities.

“Atomically thin BN has better thermal conductivity than most semiconductors and insulators, along with low density, outstanding strength, high flexibility, and stretchability, good stability, Li said. “Making them a promising material for heat dissipation on next generation devices,”

“This is a fundamental breakthrough, and with time and further research it will help to open up the boundaries of what’s possible in electronic devices – particularly as the trend in next generation electronics will most likely need to be flexible.”