Graphene can reduce chip temperature by 25 percent

July 5, 2013

An electronic component where a graphene layer has been placed on the hotspots (credit: Chalmers University of Technology)

An international group of researchers, headed by Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, has shown that a graphene layer can reduce the working temperature in hotspots inside a processor by up to 25 percent — which can significantly extend the working life of computers and other electronics.

“This discovery opens the door to increased functionality and continues to push the boundaries when it comes to miniaturizing electronics,” said Chalmers Professor Johan Liu, who heads the international research project, in partnership with the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Shanghai University in China and Swedish company SHT Smart High Tech AB.

Modern electronic systems generate a great deal of heat, due to the constantly increasing demand for more and more functionality. One rule of thumb is that a 10-degree Celsius increase in working temperature halves the working life of an electronics system.

The researchers focused on reducing the temperature in the small area where the electronics work most intensively — such as inside a processor.

“The normal working temperature in the hotspots we have cooled with a graphene layer has ranged from 55 to 115 degrees Celsius. We have been able to reduce this by up to 13 degrees, which not only improves energy efficiency, it also extends the working life of the electronics.”

Trimming server electricity demands

A Google server inside a container in one of Google’s early data centers (source: Google).

As reported in KurzweilAI, a 2011 report by Datacenter Dynamics estimated that the world’s data centers used 31 gigawatts of power, the equivalent of about half of the UK’s total peak electricity demand.

In a 2007 report, the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that  U.S. servers and data centers consumed about 61 billion kilowatt-hours (kWh), accounting for 1.5 percent of total U.S. electricity consumption.

About 50 percent of the total electricity used to run data servers goes on cooling the systems, the report said.

Google, for example, may be running its entire global data center network in an energy footprint of roughly 220 megawatts of power, according to Google’s David Jacobowitz, a program manager on the Green Energy team.

A 2008 report by McKinsey and Company projected that data center carbon emissions will quadruple by 2020.