Edge on cooling from nanostructure beats physical limit

Two very thin membranes for measuring heat transfer via the edges (credit: Daktoah Thompson)

One of the hidden heroes of the modern world is heat transfer. Sucking the heat out of modern electronics is a technical feat all by itself. And we’ve tackled even stickier situations, like cooling objects in the vacuum of space. 

Heat transfer is governed by laws that have been tested for over a century. These elderly laws are mostly undefeated and undefeatable. But there are a few exceptions. And researchers have now found another exception: beating the limits of radiative heat transfer.

So hot it glows

In electronics, heat can be conducted away to large surfaces, where convection can take care of the rest. In space, there is no convection; everything has to be radiated. The nice feature about radiative heat transfer (often referred to as “blackbody radiation”) is that it is radiative. Heating and cooling can take place over long distances—light from the Sun warms the Earth through radiative heat transfer.

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