For a two-dimensional material, graphene is certainly punching above its weight in terms of potential applications. Already set to enable faster, stronger and foldable electronic devices, researchers claim that the single layer lattice of carbon atoms can also help keep electronic components up to 25 percent cooler, giving it the potential to significantly extend the working life of computers and other electronic devices.

An international team of researchers led by Professor Johan Liu at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden found that a layer of graphene is able to significantly reduce the temperature in the tiny areas where the electronics work most intensively and therefore generate the most heat. Removing heat from these hotspots, which are found in all electronics and are on a micro or nano scale, is important in improving the working life of electronic devices.

One general rule of thumb given by the researchers is that a 10° C (18° F) increase in working temperature equates to a halving of the working life of an electronics system. Dissipating this heat also takes energy, as evidenced by a 2007 report (PDF) from the EPA estimating that around 50 percent of energy consumed by data centers in the US in 2006 went to cooling. So graphene's ability to passively cool electronic devices could deliver huge energy savings.

“The normal working temperature in the hotspots we have cooled with a graphene layer has ranged from 55 to 115° C (131 to 239° F),” says Professor Liu. “We have been able to reduce this by up to 13° C (23° F), which not only improves energy efficiency, it also extends the working life of the electronics.”

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, Shanghai University in China and Swedish company SHT Smart High Tech AB participated in the research, which has been published in the journal Carbon.

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