Sunday, March 6, 2005

Bell Labs Tests Nanograss for Electronic and Photonics

Bell Labs has launched of a new research project that aims to use nano-textured surfaces to solve the extreme thermal management challenges of advanced electronic and photonic systems. The team will be spearheaded by researchers from Bell Labs' new research laboratory in Blanchardstown, Dublin, who, in collaboration with three Irish universities and Bell Labs researchers in Murray Hill, New Jersey, will use "nanograss," a Bell Labs-engineered surface that contains billions of tiny silicon posts, to study the effectiveness of transferring heat from silicon surfaces to liquid coolants.

"Nanograss", discovered by Bell Labs researchers last year, provides a method to control the behavior of tiny drops of liquid using silicon surfaces that resemble a lawn of evenly cut grass with "blades" that are each only a few nanometers in size -- 30 times thinner than a red blood cell. Each post is covered with a non-stick, water-repellant surface material similar to Teflon, which allows fluids to move across the top of the posts without wetting the surface below. However, if a small amount of electrical current is applied, the droplets will sink down and wet the surface. Researchers at the University of Limerick will use nanograss to study the basic physics of fluid flow and heat transfer in systems across super-hydrophobic surfaces on the nano scale. (A nanometer is one billionth of a meter, roughly 100,000 times smaller than the diameter of a human hair.)

Bell Labs said nanograss also increases effective area of a flat silicon surface by a factor of ten, thereby increasing the opportunities to transfer heat from the silicon a liquid. Researchers at Trinity College in Dublin and researchers at the Bell Labs Centre in Ireland will conduct a fundamental study of this phenomenon.

Researchers at the Tyndall Institute of University College Cork will perform advanced modeling and optimization of microchannels, as well as research low cost fabrication processes to ensure that the result is cost-effective for use in low cost or even consumer-grade products

  • In September 2004, mPhase Technologies and Lucent's Bell Labs announced a major milestone for future commercialization of a nanotechnology-based battery. The tests confirm that it is possible to fabricate nanotech-based batteries, which can store and generate electric current. The prototype battery is based on a Bell Labs discovery that liquid droplets of electrolyte will stay in a dormant state atop microscopic structures called "nanograss" until stimulated to flow, thereby triggering a reaction producing electricity. The experiment proved that this super-hydrophobic effect of liquids can permit precise control and activation of the batteries on demand. The companies said future batteries based on this technology have the potential to deliver far longer shelf life and better storage capacity than existing battery technology. Potential initial applications for this technology may include defense, industrial, healthcare and consumer electronics. mPhase is also targeting the nanobattery for use in a technically-improved, lighter weight battery design.


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