Cool nanotubes.

PhysOrg unveils the guts of the next supercomputer breakthrough – with carbon nanotubes that, curiously, make things nearby get hot while they stay cool:

For the UMD researchers, the experience of the discovery was like what you or I might have felt, if, on a seemingly ordinary morning, we began to make breakfast, only to find certain things happening that seem to violate normal reality. The toast is burned, but the toaster is cold. The switch on the stove is set to “HI” and the teapot is whistling, but the burner isn’t hot.

Of course, [Kamal] Baloch, [John] Cumings and their colleagus weren’t making breakfast in a kitchen, but running experiments in an electron microscopy facility at the A. James Clark School of Engineering at the University of Maryland. They ran their experiments over and over, and the result was always the same: when they passed an electrical current through a carbon nanotube, the substrate below it grew hot enough to melt metal nanoparticles on its surface, but the nanotube itself seemed to stay cool, and so did the metal contacts attached to it.

Baloch adds that the remote Joule heating effect could have far reaching implications for computing technology. “What currently limits the performance of a computer’s processor is the speed at which it can run, and what limits the speed is the fact that it gets too hot,” he explains. “If you could find some way of getting rid of the waste heat more effectively, then it could run faster. A transistor that doesn’t dissipate energy within itself as heat, like the nanotubes in our experiment, could be a game-changer….”