Until scientists can create ultra-efficient systems (unlikely), heat will always be a problem in electronics. As devices and components get smaller while we simultaneously expect them to perform better, heat generation and energy consumption remain a problem. However, researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden may have found a novel workaround: A graphene-based film with four times the thermal conductivity of copper.

The idea of graphene as a heat displacement solution is not new. The issue, however, has been with adhesion. Graphene is applied in very thin layers, and certain quantities are necessary to achieve any meaningful heat displacement. The problem, says professor Jonathan Liu, is that as more layers of graphene are applied, they’re only held together by comparatively weak van der Waals bonds.

“We have now solved this problem by managing to create strong covalent bonds between the graphene film and the surface, which is an electronic component made of silicon,” he said.

The new application method also allows graphene to adhere to silicone, which is a big plus for the electronics industry. In order to achieve that, the researchers introduced property-altering molecules to the graphene. In this case, Liu and his team settled on (3-Aminopropyl) triethoxysilane (APTES) molecules, which create silane bonds with the components when heated and put through hydrolysis.

Liu says the increased thermal conductivity of the new graphene material holds a great deal of promise for the field of electronics.

“Increased thermal capacity could lead to several new applications for graphene,” says Johan Liu. “One example is the integration of graphene-based film into microelectronic devices and systems, such as highly efficient Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), lasers and radio frequency components for cooling purposes. Graphene-based film could also pave the way for faster, smaller, more energy efficient, sustainable high power electronics.”