Magnetic cooling may boost chip performance

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A research team from the nanoGUNE research centre in San Sebastian, in cooperation with Cambridge University and others, has developed a material which may enable the magnetic cooling of semiconductors.

Magnetic cooling exploits the tendency of certain materials to modify their temperature in the presence of a magnetic field. However, magnetic field can affect the operation of semiconductors. Luis Hueso, pictured, leader of the nanodevices group at nanoGUNE, has developed an approach based on the straining of materials. As part of the work, the team has created 20nm thick films consisting of lanthanum, calcium, manganese and oxygen. "By straining this material and then relaxing it, an effect similar to that of a magnetic field is created, thus inducing the magnetocaloric effect responsible for cooling," said Hueso. "This new technology enables us to have more local and more controlled cooling, without interfering with the other units in the device." One potential application for magnetic cooling is in data centres, where a lot of energy is consumed by cooling systems. Similarly, processors may be able to run faster. "If we could cool them properly, they would be more effective and could work faster," Hueso concluded.