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Scientists have built a tiny battery that provides power and cooling at the same time

Updated Nov 22nd, 2019 4:31AM EST

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When it comes to processors, heat is enemy number one. Packing ever more powerful processors into constantly shrinking mobile technology is a recipe for cramped cases and constantly troublesome heat buildup. Researchers from IBM and ETH Zurich think they may be on the verge of a truly novel solution, and it’s based on a component that every mobile device already has: the battery.

The scientists developed a pint-sized “flow battery” which uses electrolytes dissolved in two liquids to store a charge. The liquid in this type of battery is, like most liquids, pretty good at carrying heat, and the researchers developed an arrangement that allows the battery to both provide power and act as a medium to dissipate heat generated by the processor.

Flow batteries aren’t a particularly new technology, but this implementation of flow battery tech is indeed unique. Flow batteries are typically very large in scale and are used to store huge amounts of power for long periods of time. In fact, a different research team recently developed a way to use neutral water as the vehicle for dissolved electrolytes in order to give large flow batteries extended life and mitigate degradation over time.

“We are the first scientists to build such a small flow battery so as to combine energy supply and cooling,” says Julian Marschewski, a doctoral student at ETH Zurich. In addition to cooling and providing power, the batteries the team developed are also particularly powerful, and provide 1.4 watts of power per square centimeter of battery surface, which the team says is a record high.