NASA Ames Research Center, located in California’s Silicon Valley, and Nanoconduction, Inc., Sunnyvale, Calif., are launching a new partnership to advance scientific and commercial utilization of NASA’s innovative nanotechnology research by developing better cooling systems for microelectronics.

Nanotechnology is the ability to control or manipulate matter on the atomic scale, making it possible to create structures, devices and systems that have novel properties and functions because of their small size, approximately 1/10,000th the diameter of a human hair. Carbon nanotubes are extremely efficient at the transfer of heat, and are especially useful because of their small size, light weight, and mechanical strength. 

“Reliable thermal protection for spacecraft and advanced instrument electronics is essential if NASA is to enable the nation’s Vision for Space Exploration,” said NASA Ames Center Director G. Scott Hubbard. “Our goal is to provide nanotechnology-based products to NASA as quickly as possible, in order to benefit missions in the near-term, as well as the longer term. Nanoscience has the potential to help NASA rapidly develop state-of-the-art systems in terms of performance, size, and weight,” Hubbard concluded.

Nanoconduction has licensed the NASA Ames-developed Nano Engineered Thermal Material that is based on carbon nanotube array composites. The company will use its expertise to collaborate with NASA scientists to develop improved thermal management systems. The new partnership will enhance NASA Ames’ existing expertise in creating, handling, processing and building systems composed of carbon nanotubes. As a result of this partnership, Nanoconduction expects to introduce advanced chip cooling technology for consumer products as early as 2007.

“Overheating impacts both the electronics industry and NASA’s missions,” said Bala Padmakumar, president of Nanoconduction, Inc. “With better heat protection, electronics will be more efficient, have higher performance, and can be more tightly packaged, reducing the overall size of the devices.” 

“Nanotechnology will enable the building of lightweight, high-strength composites and novel sensors for future-generation spacecraft,” said Harry Partridge, chief of the NASA Ames’ Nanotechnology Branch.

During the collaborative research, NASA will be able to explore applications of ‘cool’ microelectronics for use in a space environment. Designing systems with higher thermal conductivity will help increase their reliability and lifespan, while reducing their noise level. Improved thermal management systems could benefit future spacecraft by providing more efficient packing of electronics, leading to smaller, lighter payloads.

“This mutually beneficial collaboration will accelerate nanotechnology development for our own exploration initiative, while allowing our private sector partners to pursue commercially viable products,” said Lisa Lockyer, chief of the NASA Ames Technology Partnerships Division.

For more information about NASA nanotechnology research, visit: