Smaller, Lighter, Faster Gadgets
Reported September 2010
OAK RIDGE, TN (Ivanhoe Newswire) -- From our computers, to our cell phones, every day we rely on machines. Now scientists have developed special foam to make our gadgets smaller, lighter, and more energy efficient.
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You grab a bite, drive to work and call your friends. We rely on machines to do it all! But most of those machines rely on a radiator to keep them from overheating.
"Just about 90 percent of the world’s energy eventually winds up as heat." James Klett, PhD, Materials Scientist at Oak Ridge National Laboratory told Ivanhoe.
This often means metals like copper or aluminum are added to a machine's components, but that can add bulk and weight. Now materials scientists have created the perfect replacement.
Graphite foam can conduct heat four times better than copper. It's hard, but lightweight, one-fifth the weight of aluminum with a unique, Swiss cheese-like structure.
"The more pure, the larger these structures the more amount of fluid those structures are, the higher the thermal conductivity is going to be of the foam." Dr. Klett said.
The graphite foam takes heat from the hand and transfers it to an ice cube, melting it.
"If you have a hot surface, a hot structure, the heat’s trying to get to a cold surface somewhere." Dr. Klett explained.
In a demonstration, one side of a block is polyester resin, a material found in fiberglass. The other side is the same material; only it's coated with graphite foam. When a blowtorch hits the resin, it burns instantly but when it hits the foam, it doesn't burn.
"Polymer won’t even burn because the foam has taken the heat from the surface so fast the polymer can’t reach its flesh temperature." Dr. Klett said.
Graphite foam can withstand temperatures up to 32 hundred degrees Celsius. From computer chips to cookware, the graphite foam can be used in just about anything.
"If we put the foam in the bottom of this and we distribute the heat more uniformly, it boils uniformly, it heats uniformly, and you can have more effective cooking." Dr. Klett said.
--A new material to keep your world running.
Dr. Klett says graphite foam is the only material in nature that both absorbs sound and conducts heat. The foam costs about two or three times more than aluminum. Lockheed martin space systems created a space radiator for satellites using the material, and they plan on using it for the first time next year.
The Materials Research Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.
Click here to Go Inside This Science or contact:
Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee
Materials Research Society
Warrendale, PA 15086-7573
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