UC Merced Connect: Phonons are a key to power

The heat generated by smartphones and other electronic devices could be harnessed to power them, UC Merced research finds.

Physics professor Michael Scheibner’s work in phononics, the study of quasi-particles that produce heat, indicates phonons can be harnessed to produce energy.

“Usually, phonons dissipate, but using an electric field we can keep them in place where they are generated and make them useful,” he said.

A semiconductor sample mounted and electrically contacted in a ceramic chip header is used to “see” the transparency signature of the quantum dots, indicating phonons are present.

Scheibner’s paper demonstrating the process earned him a spot in Nature Communications.

“We would get an increase in battery life, or could use smaller batteries,” Scheibner said. “In big centers like Google, where they need massive cooling power, their needs could be drastically reduced. Right now, most of that heat energy is wasted because we have a hard time controlling the phonons.”

Scheibner coordinated work between UC Merced graduate and undergraduate students and collaborators from Ohio University and the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington, D.C.

Smoke-free laws, dentists

Smoke-free laws may help encourage dentists to recommend that patients quit smoking, according to research co-written by professor Mariaelena Gonzalez.

The paper, published in the American Journal of Public Health, suggests the societal change manifested by smoke-free laws can contribute to dentists paying attention to patients’ smoking habits.

“Smoke-free laws can have strong effects, and not just on stopping individual-level behavior,” said Gonzalez, whose research focuses on tobacco control. “These laws can influence other behavior and attitudes, as our study shows with dentists. They can have a huge effect on people’s preferences ... .”

Gonzalez is co-author of the study, “Association of Strong Smoke-Free Laws with Dentists’ Advice to Quit Smoking, 2006-2007,” with Stanton A. Glantz of UC San Francisco and Ashley Sanders-Jackson of Stanford University. All have been associated with the UCSF-based Center for Tobacco Control Research and Education, where Glantz is director.

The team linked data on tobacco product use and smoke-free laws. Researchers looked at the effect of 100 percent smoke-free laws or laws prohibiting smoking in private workplaces, restaurants and bars, and whether dentists implemented the ask-advise-refer to a quit line intervention model with smokers who were examined in the past year.

The study examined the responses of smokers in larger counties, where information about smoke-free laws was available. Of that group, about 48 percent said they had visited the dentist within the past 12 months and 35 percent of those said they were advised to quit smoking. Only 16 percent of those given that advice also were referred to a quit line.

Interventions by dentists are needed to increase patient referrals to cessation programs, the study concludes.