. 24/7 Space News .
UVA researchers harness the power of a new solid-state thermal technology
by Staff Writers
Charlottesville VA (SPX) Jun 22, 2022

stock illustration only

Researchers at the University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science have discovered a way to make a versatile thermal conductor, with promise for more energy-efficient electronic devices, green buildings and space exploration.

They have demonstrated that a known material used in electronic equipment can now be used as a thermal regulator, too, when it is in a very pure form. This new class of material gives engineers the ability to make thermal conductivity increase or decrease on demand, changing a thermal insulator into a conductor and vice versa.

The team published its findings earlier this spring in Nature Communications: Observation of Solid-state Bidirectional Thermal Conductivity Switching in Antiferroelectric Lead Zirconate.

Bi-directional control or "tuning" of thermal conducting materials will be especially useful in electronics and devices that need to operate in extreme temperatures or withstand extreme temperature fluctuations. One of the scenarios where devices need to perform under such harsh conditions is space.

"The temperature fluctuations in space can be pretty intense," said Kiumars Aryana, who earned his Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering at UVA this spring and is first author of the Nature Communications paper. "This type of thermal transport technology could be a huge advantage as we build vehicles and devices for space exploration."

"The Mars Rover is a great example," Aryana said. Ground temperatures at the rover landing sites can reach 70 degrees Fahrenheit during the day and minus 146 degrees at night. To keep electronic devices working through these wide temperature swings, the rover relies on an insulating box and heaters to keep the components from freezing and radiators to prevent them from burning up.

"This new mode of heat management is substantially less complex and means heat regulation is easier to manage - and faster. Where a radiator or insulation takes a long time to start heating or cooling, the solid-state mechanism would be almost instantaneous. Being able to keep up with the rapid temperature changes also makes things safer. Because the heating and cooling can keep up, the chances of the heat or cold causing malfunctions - or worse - are decreased," Aryana said.

Meanwhile, here on Earth, promising uses include managing heating and cooling on a large scale, like buildings, and a small scale, like circuit boards for electronics. Less energy equates to greener technology and lower costs.

This advancement continues a longstanding collaboration between Jon Ihlefeld, UVA Engineering's associate professor of materials science and engineering and electrical and computer engineering, and Patrick E. Hopkins, Whitney Stone Professor of Engineering and professor of mechanical and aerospace and engineering and Aryana's advisor.

The Ihlefeld-Hopkins team has pioneered tunable thermal conductivity in crystalline materials over the course of a decade, first at Sandia National Laboratories and now at UVA.

Tunability is unique to a class of functional materials called ferroelectrics, a specialty of Ihlefeld's multifunctional thin-film research group.

"A ferroelectric material is like a magnet, except instead of a north and south pole, you have a positive and negative charge," Ihlefeld said. An electric field, or voltage, when applied to a ferroelectric material, "flips" the polarity of the material's surface to its opposite state, where it remains until an opposite voltage is applied.

"Usually, thermal conductivity is considered a static material property," Hopkins said. "If you want to change a thermal conductor into an insulator, you have to permanently change its structure or integrate it with a new material."

Ihlefeld's and Hopkins' prior research demonstrated how to lower thermal conductivity with an electric field, and how to integrate the material within a device to make thermal conductivity rise, but they could not make the same material do both.

For this project, the team used an antiferroelectric material in which heat and voltage both come into play.

"What this interesting material does, in addition to being a high-quality crystal that has thermal conductivity trends like an amorphous glass, in addition to being solid-state, is it gives us two unique knobs to change thermal conductivity," Hopkins said. "We can rapidly heat the crystal with a laser or apply voltage to actively tune thermal conductivity and heat transport."

"We tried to use a commercial sample of lead zirconate for testing bi-directional thermal conductivity, but it didn't work," Aryana said. Lane Martin, Chancellor's Professor of Materials Science and Engineering and department chair at the University of California Berkeley, provided an extremely pure sample of lead zirconate. "Using Lane's sample, we achieved a 38% bi-directional change in thermal conductivity in one burst, which is a huge leap," Aryana said.

Antiferroelectric material structures are bi-directional by nature. In the smallest repeat unit of the crystal lattice, one half has a polarity pointing up and the other half points down, such that the positive and negative charges cancel each other out.

When heated, the crystal structure changes and the antiferroelectricity goes away, increasing thermal conductivity. Applying an electric field does the opposite - it causes the material to transform into a ferroelectric and the thermal conductivity decreases. The net polarity returns to zero when the voltage is removed.

The flip in polarity and the arrangement of atoms in the crystal that support the anti-ferroelectric structure leads to observable and measurable thermal scattering events - something like a heat signature - which means energy diffuses through the material in ways that can be predicted and controlled.

Members of Hopkins' experiments and simulations in thermal engineering research group have made many advances in laser measurement of materials. The Nature Communications paper presents an innovation in optical thermometry-based experiments in which students employed a third laser to bring about a rapid heating event to modulate the antiferroelectric film through the transition from the antiferroelectric to paraelectric structure, giving it the ability to become polarized under an applied electric field.

To make an impact on technologies, engineers will need a bigger "on-off" switch to rapidly move or store a much larger percentage of heat. The next steps for the research team include working to better define the material's limitations, so they can design a new material with higher switching ratios, accelerating the use of actively tunable thermal conductivity materials.

Research Report:Observation of solid-state bidirectional thermal conductivity switching in antiferroelectric lead zirconate (PbZrO3)

Related Links
University of Virginia School of Engineering and Applied Science
Space Technology News - Applications and Research

Thanks for being there;
We need your help. The SpaceDaily news network continues to grow but revenues have never been harder to maintain.

With the rise of Ad Blockers, and Facebook - our traditional revenue sources via quality network advertising continues to decline. And unlike so many other news sites, we don't have a paywall - with those annoying usernames and passwords.

Our news coverage takes time and effort to publish 365 days a year.

If you find our news sites informative and useful then please consider becoming a regular supporter or for now make a one off contribution.
SpaceDaily Monthly Supporter
$5+ Billed Monthly

paypal only
SpaceDaily Contributor
$5 Billed Once

credit card or paypal

Irvine scientists observe effects of heat in materials with atomic resolution
Irvine CA (SPX) Jun 10, 2022
As electronic, thermoelectric and computer technologies have been miniaturized to nanometer scale, engineers have faced a challenge studying fundamental properties of the materials involved; in many cases, targets are too small to be observed with optical instruments. Using cutting-edge electron microscopes and novel techniques, a team of researchers at the University of California, Irvine, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other institutions has found a way to map phonons - vibrations ... read more

Comment using your Disqus, Facebook, Google or Twitter login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks
del.icio.usdel.icio.us DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

South Korea space rocket launch puts satellites in orbit

ISS maneuvered around Russian satellite debris

Sidus Space working with NASA team for Extravehicular Activity Services Contract

Sierra Space to train astronauts at Kennedy Space Center for Orbital Reef

Go ahead for second round of micro-launcher payload competition

South Korea launches domestically-developed space rocket

South Korea launches homegrown Nuri rocket in major space milestone

SpaceX launches three rockets in 36 hours

Sols 3503-3504: And We're Back

NASA, Partners establish new research group for Mars Sample Return Program

How Perseverance averts collisions and zaps

The Aonia Terra region of Mars in colour

China's deep space exploration laboratory starts operation

Shenzhou XIV taikonauts to conduct 24 medical experiments in space

Shenzhou XIV astronauts transporting supplies into space station

Three Chinese astronauts arrive at space station

Airbus built MEASAT-3d communications satellite ready for launch

NASA, ESA discuss sending first European to Moon

AST SpaceMobile to launch BlueWalker 3 for Direct-to-Cell Phone Connectivity Testing

ESA centre to develop Europe's space economy and promote commercialisation

UVA researchers harness the power of a new solid-state thermal technology

On the Forefront of Next Generation Radar Excellence

Quantum sensor can detect electromagnetic signals of any frequency

A bright future for 3D printing

Astronomers discover a multiplanet system nearby

To find a planet, look for the signatures of planet formation

China says it detected alien signals using giant 'Sky Eye' telescope

New clues suggest how Hot Jupiters form

NASA's Europa Clipper Mission Completes Main Body of the Spacecraft

Gemini North Telescope Helps Explain Why Uranus and Neptune Are Different Colors

Bern flies to Jupiter

Traveling to the centre of planet Uranus

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2024 - Space Media Network. All websites are published in Australia and are solely subject to Australian law and governed by Fair Use principals for news reporting and research purposes. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA news reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. All articles labeled "by Staff Writers" include reports supplied to Space Media Network by industry news wires, PR agencies, corporate press officers and the like. Such articles are individually curated and edited by Space Media Network staff on the basis of the report's information value to our industry and professional readership. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) Statement Our advertisers use various cookies and the like to deliver the best ad banner available at one time. All network advertising suppliers have GDPR policies (Legitimate Interest) that conform with EU regulations for data collection. By using our websites you consent to cookie based advertising. If you do not agree with this then you must stop using the websites from May 25, 2018. Privacy Statement. Additional information can be found here at About Us.