As overclockers we all know how important it is to keep the heat down, so we invest in air or water-based cooling systems for our computers. Researchers at MIT have found that for phase-change cooling systems, rougher surfaces can improve their efficiency. This finding may not impact the normal home computer, but server farms and other large systems could benefit.
Only recently developed technologies have allowed the researchers to examine how roughness impacts heat transfer. By precisely engineering the surfaces of silicon wafers, the researchers were able to study how well they conduct heat to water which boils away. They found that rougher surfaces allowed for a line of vapor bubbles to stay close to the surface, and pull heat away with them. In fact, the effectiveness of the bubbles pulling heat away is almost completely dominated by the roughness of the surface.
Large-scale high-performance electronics may see the greatest benefit from this finding as new phase-change coolers are designed for them, but other technologies may utilize it as well. Solar power, power plants, and desalination systems may all be able to use this research for their various reasons boil water.