WHAT WE DO

Directed by Dr. Damena Agonafer, our group is focused on the development of novel materials for the areas related to electrochemical energy storage, thermal management of high powered micro and power electronics, and water desalination by tuning and controlling solid-liquid-vapor interactions at micro/nano length scales.

The continuing “microelectronics revolution” has yielded electronic devices with unprecedented power and capability that are housed in ever-smaller packages. As electronic devices continue to shrink in size and increase in functionality, effective thermal management has become a critical bottleneck that hinders continued advancement. For example, in 2007 the principal challenge in electronics cooling was to dissipate heat flux of 300 W cm-2. Currently, however, the critical heat flux in high-performance microprocessors already exceeds 1 kW cm-2 on a device level and 5 kW cm-2 for local hot spots. Similar trends are observed for the new generation of power electronics based on Gallium nitride (GaN) high-electron-mobility transistors (HEMT). Compared to silicon, GaN offers ten times higher breakdown voltage and 40% less loss during power conversion, which makes it attractive as a replacement for silicon for use in electric and hybrid vehicles (EHVs). However, thermal challenges restrict the exploitation of its full potential as the heat flux dissipated by GaN HEMT with modest power density can exceed 1 kW cm-2. Such high heat dissipation requires aggressive cooling strategies for ensuring reliable performance of these electronic components.