May 4th, 2012

Groundbreaking New Information on Heat’s Effect on Materials

Thanks to a collaboration between the University of Southampton and the University of Cambridge, exciting new developments have emerged in the study of how heat effects materials. With equipment on loan from Mettler-Toledo, the research team was able to observe exactly what happens when semiconductors are heated very rapidly, as much as 10,000 degrees C a second.

The research found that materials such as crystal react quite differently from glass or silicon and they admitted that the behavior they found with rapid heating was not at all what they expected.

According to Professor Dan Hewak from the University of Southampton, “We have been studying novel glasses and phase change materials for two decades here at the Optoelectronics Research Centre. However, our understanding of what happens when these materials are heated, that is, their crystallization and melting behaviours, has been limited to heating rates of about 10 degrees C per minute using conventional thermal analysis. In reality, in the memory devices we fabricate, heating rates are millions of times faster and it is reasonable to expect that in order to improve these devices, an understanding of their properties at the same heating rates they will be used is needed.”

What does this mean for the rest of us? These studies will impact the way that memory devices are created. By understanding how heat effects different materials, researchers are well on their way to creating faster and more power memory capabilities for smart phones, tablets, and other small electronics. Not only will this understanding impact the speed of these devices, but also how much power they consume, leading perhaps to smart phones that will no longer suck down battery lives at high speeds.

Previous experiments in this field revealed much, but it was not until the team was able to heat these materials at such incredibly high speeds, with just a difference in degrees at each stage, that they were able to unlock the mystery of how these different materials are affected.

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