Nanofluids: No “Magic” Cooling Capabilities

Not so super-cool after all: MIT researchers knock down theory about nanofluids. ‘MIT engineers have shown that nanofluids, which once held promise as a super-coolant, do not have the theoretical cooling capabilities many scientists believed they had.

Nanofluids are suspensions of tiny particles on the nanometer, or billionth of a meter, scale. When nanofluids were first engineered in the early 1990s, experiments showed that their thermal conductivity – a measure of their heat-removing capability – was much higher than expected.

Several new theories were offered in recent years to explain this anomalous behavior. Among them, the “microconvection” theory predicted an astonishing increase of several orders in the thermal conductivity of the fluid just by adding light nanoparticles less than ten nanometers in size.

MIT researchers recently conducted experiments to test the microconvection effect and found that nanofluids in fact do not have the advanced cooling properties ascribed to them. The team reports its findings in the Aug. 31 issue of Physical Review Letters.’

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