Researchers at the Japanese National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Tohoku University have successfully created the first Peltier element which relies on magnetisation rather than junction current - offering potential for cooling future high-performance processors.

Peltier elements, largely a curiosity of interest only to extreme overclockers working with liquid nitrogen in the larger PC market today, are devices to which a current is applied to create a 'hot side' and a 'cold side'. Heat applied to the cold side is transferred to the hot side at a rate considerably higher than would be the case for a passive material, allowing the excess heat from high-performance processors to be rapidly pulled away and shuffled off to a liquid cooling system. Despite having been first noted more than 200 years ago, however, the Peltier effect has previously only been physically observed in a very specific element which relies upon the application of a charge current to a junction between two distinct electrical conductors.

Researchers at the US National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) and Tohoku University claim to have made a breakthrough, however, with the creation of the first Peltier element which uses the anisotropic magneto-Peltier effect - long theorised but never before physically observed.

Based on the anisotropic magneto-Seebeck effect, which can generate a charge current when two sides of a magnetic material are at different temperatures, the anisotropic magneto-Peltier effect could, the researchers claim, allow for simpler Peltier devices and improve energy efficiency in the cooling of high-power computer systems. The technology, however, is far from ready for commercialisation: The team has indicated that its next step will be to find materials which have the largest anistropic magneto-Peltier effect then work on adapting them into thermal management technologies for electronic devices.

The team's paper, Observation of Anisotropic Magnetic-Peltier Effect in Nickel, has been published in the journal Nature.

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