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In comparison to the vast array of devices, such as transistors and diodes that are available to control the flow of electricity, there exists currently very few proposals for controlling the flow of heat, especially at the nanoscale. To overcome this challenge researchers have been exploring nanoscale phenomena that may enable novel functional thermal devices.
Nanoscale thermal switches are key to thermal management of nanoscale devices, refrigeration, data storage, thermal computing and heat management of buildings.
A US Army funded study by University of Michigan researchers showed for the first time how a nanoscale thermal switch can be built by employing nanoscale effects that arise when heat is transferred between a hot and cold nanoscale-thick membrane via thermal radiation.
The findings can have a strong impact on thermal management for next generation computing for the military, according to phys.org.
“After some thought it became apparent to us that we could potentially create a thermal switch by controlling the emission properties of the nanomembranes by bringing a third object into close proximity of the nanomembrane,” said Dr. Edgar Meyhofer, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Michigan.
It will be interesting to know how the US military would apply the technology.