As electronic devices get increasingly tiny, heat management becomes a bigger and bigger problem. In gadgets that can't practically house a fan, heat sinks do the job of keeping sensitive electronics cool. So far, the best-performing heat transfer material has been diamond, which any rap video will remind you is crazy expensive. Now, physicists have found that a boron compound could outperform all of Jay-no-hyphen-Z's ice.
A research team from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and Boston College has discovered that cubic boron arsenide, a semiconductor, has heat dissipating capabilities that meet or exceed those of diamond and graphite materials once thought to be most efficient. Since these materials don't conduct electricity under normal conditions, building them into tiny electronic devices doesn't require the circuit insulation of traditional metal heat sinks. And since even synthetic diamond is expensive and limited in supply, a cheaper high-performance heat management material is the hot ticket in device design.
Currently, the researchers have only performed computer calculations on cubic boron arsenide, and while they say their data is robust, real-world testing is still far off. But anything that does the job of diamonds without taking them away from the jewelry we irrationally desire is seriously cool in our book. [PhysOrg]