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Magnetic Nanoparticles Could Help Cool Electronics 300 Percent Better Than Plain Water

By Rebekah Marcarelli r.marcarelli@hngn.com | Nov 20, 2013 02:24 PM EST

Magnetic fields could aid cooling systems.
Magnetic fields could aid cooling systems. (Photo : Wikimedia Commons)

Most cooling systems pump water through pipes to remove hear, and researchers believe magnetic nanoparticles could aid in this process.

Magnets could prevent "hot spots" (which can lead to major system failures in the system) by promoting heat transfers, an MIT news release reported.

The magnets could have a wide range of applications including advanced fusion reactors and electronics. The system employs a "slurry of tiny particles of magnetite,"a type of iron oxide.

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The team tested the theory by sending magnetite nanofluid through tubes and manipulating it with magnets. The magnets "attract the particles closer to the heated surface" which encourages the heat to transfer out of the tube and into the surrounding atmosphere. The team believes with the magnets in place the fluid behaves "300 percent better than plain water."

I today's cooling technology "fins and grooves in the pipe's surface" are used to promote heat transfer.

The researchers believe the magnets cause the nanoparticles to create a "chain" near the field's source, which would raise the temperature gradient.

"It's a neat way to enhance heat transfer," Jacopo Buongiorno, an associate professor of nuclear science and engineering at MIT, said. "You can imagine magnets put at strategic locations, when you want to turn the cooling up, you turn up the magnets, and get a very localized cooling there." 

Cooling properties can also be increased by pumping water through the system quicker; but the downfall is that this uses large amounts of energy and can cause the pressure in the system to significantly decrease.

"You can think of other systems that require not necessarily systemwide cooling, but localized cooling," Buongiorno.

Buongiorno believes the discovery could also be put to use in microchips, which are often exposed to high levels of heat. Magnets could also be used in fusion reactors where "localized hotspots where the heat flux is much higher than the average." 

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