National Physical Laboratory

Measuring bullets at the nanoscale

NPL is developing new technologies to measure thermal and electrical transport properties at the nanoscale (a billionth of a metre).

This work is key to the electronics industry, as circuits become more compact and need to perform faster multiple operations the need to effectively remove heat from such small systems is literally becoming a 'hot' issue. On a more fundamental level this work is important to the understanding of thermal dissipation and energy transfer at the cellular level, it could even lead to a more accurate way of measuring temperature.

Nanoscale bullets

NPL has published details of quantum thermal measurements in individual carbon nanotubes, results that could herald nano-electric industrial applications. NPL showed that electric and thermal conductivity in high-quality nanotubes is ballistic, caused by scatter-free transport of electrons and phonons respectively. This means that nanotubes may act as low resistance interconnectors or super-efficient heat pipes, conducting heat away from nanoscale circuits.

NPL was the first to make these observations. The nanotubes possess unique mechanical and transport properties, with simple but near-perfect crystalline structures that guarantee electrical and thermal currents will flow with little resistance. NPL is currently investigating quantum properties of nanotubes for future applications in nanoscale metrology (see Further Reading below for details).

This work also underpins NPL's work on nano-electromechanical systems (NEMS)

For further information, contact Ling Hao

Find out more about NPL's research in Quantum Detection

Further reading:

Last Updated: 21 Jan 2013
Created: 30 Sep 2010

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