New technique could solve smartphone overheating

Researchers have developed a new temperature mapping technology for tiny devices that could help solve the problem of overheating in smartphones and computers.

The new thermal imaging technique allows engineers to “see” how the temperature changes from point to point inside the smallest electronic circuits.

Called plasmon energy expansion thermometry or PEET, the technique allows temperatures to be mapped in units as small as a nanometre, a unit of measure equal to one-billionth of a metre.

This breakthrough should enable engineers to design microprocessors that minimise the problem of overheating in smartphones and computers, said the researchers.

“With the old techniques, measuring the thermal conductivity of a nanowire returns one number. Mapping temperature with PEET, we get 10,000 numbers as we go down the wire,” explained lead researcher Chris Regan, associate professor of physics and astronomy at University of California, Los Angeles.

“It is the difference between seeing the score and watching the game — one gives you much better knowledge of the players,” Regan pointed out.

Modern microelectronic circuits contain billions of nanometer-scale transistors.

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