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Managing Editor  | October 2017

Polymer film created that can transfer heat from batteries and processors

Scientists from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) Henry Samuell School of Engineering and Applied Science and California-based non-profit research organization SRI International have developed a thin, flexible device from an electrocaloric polymer film that can be used to transfer heat from batteries or processors and has a number of potential applications.



Because the system is built on a flexible polymer film, it could be adapted for devices with complex curvature or with moving surfaces. (UCLA Engineering)


According to a report from UCLA, the device transfers heat from the component, such as a battery or a processor in a mobile device, to a heat sink. Electrical current acts as a switch to alternate contact between the heat source and the heat sink.


“It is the first demonstration of a solid-state cooling device based on the electrocaloric effect — a phenomenon in which a material’s temperature changes when an electric field is applied to it,” the report explained.


The flexibility of the polymer film, and the device that the researchers made from it, means that it could be used in wearable electronics, personalized cooling systems, mobile devices, computers, and more.


The report added, “The UCLA–SRI system also has certain advantages over another advanced type of cooling system, called thermoelectric coolers, which require expensive ceramic materials and whose cooling capabilities don’t yet measure up to vapor compression systems.”


Researchers believe that this could also lead to flexible pads for treating injuries or reducing thermal noise in thermographic cameras or night-vision devices.


The research was recently published in Science. The abstract read:


“Solid-state refrigeration offers potential advantages over traditional cooling systems, but few devices offer high specific cooling power with a high coefficient of performance (COP) and the ability to be applied directly to surfaces.


“We developed a cooling device with a high intrinsic thermodynamic efficiency using a flexible electrocaloric (EC) polymer film and an electrostatic actuation mechanism.


“Reversible electrostatic forces reduce parasitic power consumption and allow efficient heat transfer through good thermal contacts with the heat source or heat sink. The EC device produced a specific cooling power of 2.8 watts per gram and a COP of 13.


“The new cooling device is more efficient and compact than existing surface-conformable solid-state cooling technologies, opening a path to using the technology for a variety of practical applications.”

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