Chill out

May 07, 2000

ONR-funded researchers at Michigan State University believe that a new type of thermoelectric material may increase the speed of computers and extend lifetimes of processors by operating at lower temperatures. Existing thermoelectric materials drop their temperatures when zapped with electricity. The new material - a combination of cesium, bismuth and tellurium - could drop its temperature even more, a feature that would make it ideal for keeping computer chips cool. As chips become smaller and more powerful, they generate more heat. Scientists are searching for an active way of removing the heat. "We've demonstrated that the new material outperforms the current material in a given temperature range," said MSU Professor Mercouri Kanatzidis, whose lab discovered the new material. The Navy is interested in thermoelectric materials for their potential as an environmentally friendly way of cooling and generating power aboard ships.

The university and Tellurex Corporation recently signed research and exclusive licensing agreements for pioneering work in the development of thermoelectric materials. The pacts will allow Dr. Kanatzidis to carry on his research at MSU with Tellurex providing the capacity for synthesizing new crystalline structures and fabricating working devices. Under the agreements, the university will receive funding and other support over a three-year period, while Tellurex positions itself to explore the commercial potential of the technology.

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