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John O | October 2018

Researchers create composite material that cools itself even under extreme temperatures

By Josh Perry, Editor


Scientists at the University of Nottingham (U.K.) have developed a composite material made from synthetic polymer that features a series of microchannels with active flowing fluids that can regulate its own temperature under extreme temperatures.


Scientists have created a new material that can cool itself in extreme temperatures. (Wikimedia Commons)


According to a report from the university, the material has precise control measures that switch its conductive states and allows it to manage temperature relative to the ambient. Researchers were inspired by the human body’s ability to manage its internal temperature through fluidics.


The material, according to researchers, can absorb high solar radiation and cool itself autonomously regardless of the environment that it is placed in. The material could be used to treat burn victims and also has potential aerospace applications.


“By regulation of the structural material temperature of the vehicle, this will not only advance structural properties but could also generate useful power,” the article explained. “This thermal energy could be removed from the re-circulated fluid system to be stored in a reservoir tank on board the capsule. Once captured, the energy could be converted into electrical energy or to heat water for use by the crew.”


The research was recently published in Scientific Reports. The abstract read:


“This research studies a lower down transition temperature composite polymer, modulated by multi microchannel fluidic flows to advance a thermally controllable material. Through modulating volumetric flow rates to manipulate fluid-material interface for heat transport within a microfluidic platform. Determining this optimization at any given flow rate will advance fluidics acting as a filter for invisible irradiation, near IR (NIR) range of the electromagnetic spectrum.


“In principle, filtering out this part of the solar irradiation spectrum can be achieved by selective fluidic absorption. By switchable control of conductance states to make the material switch on for high conductance or switch off for low conductance as a heat seeking targeting material. The challenges in material science is our ability to evaluate heat flow and monitor temperature with time.


“This research will determine the use of microfluidics based flows to direct the structural assembly of a polymer into a thermal switch. The research is inspired by nature’s vasculature leaf formations to modulate irradiance absorption by laminar fluidic flow. This bio-inspired engineering approach advances the structural assembly of polymers.


“By finely tuning flows to manipulate thermal gains in microchannel network architecture through flow rate switching to define composite function in differing conductance states. The research determines control of the thermodynamic state of a composite is directed by planar extensional flow in a microfluidic platform for high cooling surfaces.”

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