How Cell Phones Keep Their Cool

How Cell Phones Keep Their Cool

Whether searching for an apartment on the internet, using a map to find your way home or ordering takeout on a busy night, we rely on our smartphones for an ever-increasing array of services. As our devices perform these tasks, many simultaneously, they generate a lot of heat. If the heat is not dissipated properly, it slows down the processors in the smartphone and could cause damage and decrease battery life. So how do our trusty mobile devices keep their cool, and keep us safe?

Most mobile phones currently on the market are powered by an SOC, or system on a chip, that manages the device’s operating system, memory, and microprocessor, which, in turn, manages all of the functions of the device including the phone’s display and connectivity. The computational power of our smartphones far exceeds the power of the computers in the Apollo spacecraft that went to the moon and yet they are small enough to slip in our back pocket. As the power of our smartphones increase, it’s no surprise that these devices generate a significant amount of heat.

Keeping Their Cool

To dissipate the excess heat, cell phones must find means to passively transfer thermal energy from the small enclosed cases that provide us with the convenience of mobility. Larger devices, like laptops, are cooled by fans as well as heat pipes and heat sinks that use air or liquid coolant. But because mobile phones don’t have room for bulky cooling systems, they need smaller, lighter components to regulate temperature. In some phones, designers use metal lids intended to direct heat away from the hot SOC. Other designs use thermally conductive foils as heat spreaders to eliminate hot spots and keep the temperature regulated. In any design, thermal interface materials like DuPont™ Temprion™ Thermal Management materials seamlessly and efficiently enable heat to rapidly flow away from the SOC and maximize heat dissipation. This thermal optimization helps avoid the built-in fail-safe measures of smartphones, including reduced clock-speed that slows down the processor, partial charging of batteries, and even complete shutdown of your device.

So, the next time you use your phone to access the internet, open an app, search for a location, or just make a call, consider the amazing materials that are enabling your device to operate at its maximum performance.