Boron Arsenide Crystals may Curb Overheating Issues in Electronic Devices


Boron compound / Photo by: GrAl via Shutterstock


Overheating is a major threat in processors and graphics chipsets, and persistent high temperature may damage the motherboard. Researchers at the University of Texas at Dallas developed a compound to help solve heating problems in chips.

When a computer, a smartphone or a tablet starts to become warm after long periods of streaming videos, playing games or using several apps at once, the CPU and the GPU are doing their jobs. But, a very high temperature poses a huge threat on the condition of the motherboard and that heat must be expelled outside the device.

A team of experts in physics at UT Dallas and collaborators presented boron arsenide crystals grown in a lab as a solution to heat management. The crystals have high thermal conductivity to absorb the heat generated by the chips and lower the chance of bottleneck, a PC phenomenon when the performance slows down due to overheating.

“For high-powered, small electronics, we cannot use metal to dissipate heat because metal can cause a short circuit. We cannot apply cooling fans because those take up space. What we need is an inexpensive semiconductor that also disperses a lot of heat,” explained Dr. Bing Lv, an assistant professor of physics at UT Dallas.

In 2013, boron arsenide has been found to possess similar thermal conductivity as diamonds, but the compounds produced in 2015 can only take about 200 watts per meter-kelvin, while diamonds can take 2,200 W/mK. 

So, the researchers applied a technique called chemical vapor transport. to boost the crystals' performance. It exposed the boron and arsenic in a chamber where one end was hot and the other cold. In this process, the combination of the two separate elements resulted in crystals with 1,000 W/mK.

The thermal conductivity of the crystal is only second to diamonds but its cost is significantly lower compared the hardest mineral on Earth. The researchers are hoping that the potential of boron arsenide enables manufacturers to use it in producing electronics.