"Long before it's in the papers"
January 27, 2015


Technology could cool the laptop

Oct. 30, 2009
Courtesy Texas A&M University
and World Science staff

Does your lap­top some­times get so hot you could al­most fry an egg on it? New tech­nol­o­gy may help cool it and give in­forma­t­ion tech­nol­o­gy a un­ique twist, says phys­i­cist Jairo Si­nova.

Lap­tops are get­ting in­creas­ingly pow­er­ful, but as they al­so get smaller they’re heat­ing up. How to deal with ex­ces­sive heat be­comes a head­ache, Si­no­va, of Tex­as A&M Un­ivers­ity, ex­plains.

“The crux of the prob­lem is the way in­forma­t­ion is pro­cessed,” Si­no­va notes. “Lap­tops and some oth­er de­vices use flows of elec­tric charge to pro­cess in­forma­t­ion, but they al­so pro­duce heat. The­o­ret­ic­ally, ex­ces­sive heat may melt the lap­top,” and it wastes lots of en­er­gy, he added.

Sinova and col­leagues’ re­search has been pub­lished in the Aug. 2 is­sue of the jour­nal Na­ture Phys­ics.

Their work ex­plores one pos­si­ble so­lu­tion to the heat prob­lem: an al­ter­na­tive way to pro­cess in­forma­t­ion. “Our re­search looks at the spin of elec­trons,” sub­a­tom­ic par­t­i­cles that car­ry elec­tric charge, Si­no­va said. “The di­rec­tions they spin can be used to rec­ord and pro­cess in­forma­t­ion.”

To pro­cess in­forma­t­ion, Sinova said, one must cre­ate it, trans­mit it and read it. “The de­vice we de­signed in­jects the elec­trons with spin point­ing in a par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion ac­cord­ing to the in­forma­t­ion we want to pro­cess, and then we trans­mit the elec­trons to anoth­er place in the de­vice but with the spin still sur­viv­ing, and fi­nally we are able to meas­ure the spin di­rec­tion via a volt­age that they pro­duce,” Si­no­va ex­plained.

The big­gest chal­lenge has been the dis­tance that the spins will sur­vive in a par­tic­u­lar di­rec­tion, he added, but his re­search sug­gests this is no long­er a prob­lem. “If the old de­vices could only trans­mit the in­forma­t­ion to sev­er­al hun­dred feet away, with our de­vice, in­forma­t­ion can be easily trans­mitted to hun­dreds of miles away,” he said.

Sinova is op­ti­mis­tic about the prac­ti­cal ap­plica­t­ions. “This new de­vice, as the only all-semiconductor spin-based de­vice for pos­si­ble in­forma­t­ion pro­cessing, has a lot of real prac­ti­cal po­ten­tial,” he said. “One huge thing is that it is opera­t­ional at room tem­per­a­ture, which no­body has been able to achieve un­til now. It may br­ing in a new and much more ef­fi­cient way to pro­cess in­forma­t­ion.”

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Does your laptop sometimes get so hot you could almost fry an egg on it? New technology may help cool it and give information technology a unique twist, said physicist Jairo Sinova. Laptops are getting increasingly powerful, but as they also get smaller they’re heating up. How to deal with excessive heat becomes a headache, Sinova, of Texas A&M University, explains. “The crux of the problem is the way information is processed,” Sinova notes. “Laptops and some other devices use flows of electric charge to process information, but they also produce heat. Theoretically, excessive heat may melt the laptop,” and it wastes lots of energy, he added. Sinova and colleagues have had their research published in the Aug. 2 issue of the journal Nature Physics. Their research explores one possible solution to the heat problem: an alternative way to process information. “Our research looks at the spin of electrons,” subatomic particles that carry electric charge, Sinova said. “The directions they spin can be used to record and process information.” To process information, Sinova said, one must create it, transmit it and read it. “The device we designed injects the electrons with spin pointing in a particular direction according to the information we want to process, and then we transmit the electrons to another place in the device but with the spin still surviving, and finally we are able to measure the spin direction via a voltage that they produce,” Sinova explained. The biggest challenge has been the distance that the spins will survive in a particular direction, he added, but his research suggests this is no longer a problem. “If the old devices could only transmit the information to several hundred feet away, with our device, information can be easily transmitted to hundreds of miles away,” he said. Sinova is optimistic about the practical applications. “This new device, as the only all-semiconductor spin-based device for possible information processing, has a lot of real practical potential,” he said. “One huge thing is that it is operational at room temperature, which nobody has been able to achieve until now. It may bring in a new and much more efficient way to process information.”