Scientists develop a new water droplet system to keep electronics cool

Scientists develop a new water droplet system to keep electronics cool

water droplet system
An illustration of the vapour chamber with its hydrophobic floor and sponge-like ceiling

Scientists have developed a novel new water droplet system that could help keep our electronics cool and running at top speeds. Even better, it organically targets hot areas.  Inspired by the super-hydrophobic wings of cicada insects, which naturally repel water, the tiny water cooling technique has the potential to be smarter and more versatile than the systems we have in our electronics today.

The team from Duke University says its miniature vapour chambers can improve the performance of everything from smartphones to electric cars.  The new system takes advantage of the way water droplets naturally produce a small amount of energy when they merge, as the surface area of the drop is reduced, and less energy is required to flatten them out.  If the underlying material is enough of a water repellent, that released energy causes the drops to literally jump off the surface.  It is an important self-cleaning method for the cicada.  With this technology, a sponge-like substance containing moisture is placed under the electronics.

The moisture vaporises near any hostpots and is forced onto a hydrophobic surface below the sponge.  There the water condenses, and passive cooling structures built into the material carry the heat away from the moisture.  As the water builds, droplets merge, and the hydrophobic coating causes it to jump back up to the sponge, where it is trapped again and the process repeats.  One advantage of the new cooling technique is that it works in any direction, because it does not rely on gravity.


Image source: The Verge