Researchers at ETH Zurich and IBM Research Zurich have built a miniature redox flow battery that can supply electric power and dissipate heat simultaneously for computers.
The group, led by Dimos Poulikakos, Professor of Thermodynamics at ETH Zurich, used liquid electrolytes as a medium to deal with heat dissipation and taking out that heat generated by the processor via the same circuit.
Just 1.5mm thick, the micro-flow battery cells can be ideally assembled with the computer-chip stack.
The best output test showed the battery could reach 1.4 watts per square centimetre on its surface. However, the electricity produced is still not enough to operate a computer chip and further optimising is required.
The scientists used 3D-printing technology to build wedge-shaped convergent channels to efficiently press the electrolyte liquid into the porous electrode layer.
“We are the first scientists to build such a small flow battery so as to combine energy supply and cooling,” said Julian Marschewski, a doctoral student in Poulikakos’ group.
Marschewski said the main difficulty of building the battery was to maintain the efficient electrolytes supply and lower the pumping power at the same time.
The group is interested in applying the technology to bigger applications, such as lasers and solar cells.