arcticstoat calls our attention to MIT research that has produced a version of polyethylene that can conduct heat away from computer chips. Polyethylene is the most widely used plastic. It's not clear how practical this research is for industrial-scale use, involving as it does an atomic-force microscope. The work is detailed in a paper published in Nature Nanotechnology this month. "The new process causes the polymer to conduct heat very efficiently in just one direction, unlike metals, which conduct equally well in all directions. ... The key to the transformation was getting all the polymer molecules to line up the same way, rather than forming a chaotic tangled mass, as they normally do. The team did that by slowly drawing a polyethylene fiber out of a solution, using the finely controllable cantilever of an atomic-force microscope, which they also used to measure the properties of the resulting fiber. This fiber was about 300 times more thermally conductive than normal polyethylene along the direction of the individual fibers, says the team’s leader..."
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