A team of physicists at CU Boulder has solved the mystery behind a perplexing phenomenon in the nano realm: why some ultra-small heat sources cool down faster if you pack them closer together. The findings, which will publish this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), could one day help the tech industry design speedier electronic devices that overheat less.

“Often heat is a challenging consideration in designing electronics. You build a device then discover that it’s heating up faster than desired,” said study co-author Joshua Knobloch, postdoctoral research associate at JILA, a joint research institute between CU Boulder and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). “Our goal is to understand the fundamental physics involved so we can engineer future devices to efficiently manage the flow of heat.”