Having worn corrective lenses since I was eight years old due to nearsightedness, I am well-accustomed to not being able to see things with the naked eye. I learned at a young age: There are times when you have to take it on faith that the things you can’t see really are there, performing as needed. Perhaps that’s part of why I’ve long been excited by nanotechnologies.

So, I read with interest about research at Purdue University, West LaFayette, Ind., into a new process for coating copper nanowires with graphene to lower the wires’ resistance and heating. Should further research bear out the findings, the team may have found a way to create nanowires to effectively dissipate heat in electronics such as computer chips and flexible displays.

The research identified a novel way to encapsulate copper nanowires with graphene (an ultra-thin layer of carbon). The graphene coating provides several important benefits: It prevents copper wire oxidation, preserves low resistance and reduces the amount of heating. Traditional methods of coating the copper nanowires with graphene using chemical vapor deposition at temperatures near 1800°F (~1000°C) degrade copper thin films and small-dimension wires. The new method, dubbed plasma-enhanced chemical vapor deposition, can be performed at approximately 1200°F (~650°C). In addition, the novel method keeps the tiny copper nanowires intact.

In testing, the hybrid wires reportedly deliver 15 percent faster data transmission. At the same time, peak temperature was reduced by 27 percent compared to uncoated copper nanowires.

Developments such as these will continue to drive component miniaturization while expanding their functionality. For real-world research you can put into practice in your plant today, however, you need look no further than the pages of this month’s Process Heating. In “5 Essential Rules for Effective Heat Transfer Design,” Jeff Wheeler and Ken Sunden of Nexthermal, Battle Creek, Mich., use advanced finite-element analysis (FEA) software to demonstrate how a heater designer can evaluate the thermal needs of the process and design a heating solution for better uniformity, faster cycle times and lower power consumption. Modifying design parameters such as thermocouple location, watt density and heater bore/hole tolerances in the theoretical world allows a designer to visualize how the heater will perform in the application — before product is at risk or any scrap is created.

 Computer modeling creates a virtual world. Nanotechnologies occur at the atomic level. I cannot see either with my myopic eyes, but to recognize their benefits, I don’t need to.