A material’s insulating properties can be tuned at will

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 15:30 in Physics & Chemistry

Materials whose electronic and magnetic properties can be significantly changed by applying electrical inputs form the backbone of all of modern electronics. But achieving the same kind of tunable control over the thermal conductivity of any material has been an elusive quest. Now, a team of researchers at MIT have made a major leap forward. They have designed a long-sought device, which they refer to as an “electrical heat valve,” that can vary the thermal conductivity on demand. They demonstrated that the material’s ability to conduct heat can be “tuned” by a factor of 10 at room temperature. This technique could potentially open the door to new technologies for controllable insulation in smart windows, smart walls, smart clothing, or even new ways of harvesting the energy of waste heat.  The findings are reported today in the journal Nature Materials, in a paper by MIT professors Bilge Yildiz and Gang Chen, recent graduates Qiyang...

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