Ion-Gated Thermal/Electrical/Optoelectronic Modulator/Transistors/Switches

Tech ID: 29701 / UC Case 2017-458-0


UCLA researchers in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering have developed a novel device for modulating thermal and electrical properties of materials by manipulating ionic motions.


Heat transfer has important applications in the electronics industry. Conventional thermal management methods involve adding impurities to materials. That approach has the drawback of being irreversible, preventing any further adjustment to the material’s heat transfer characteristics.


Researchers at UCLA have developed a novel electrochemical device that provides control and flexibility of heat transfer in thermo-electronics. This design is based on a rechargeable battery. The material for which thermal conductivity is desired to be controlled sits at the anode of the battery. When the battery discharges, ions flow from anode to cathode, reducing the thermal conductivity of the anode material up to 40%, through phonon scattering. When the battery charges, ions flow back from cathode to anode, restoring original thermal conductivity of the anode material.

This basic concept of manipulating ionic motions can also be used to modulate electronic signal properties of materials in transistors, switches, and other electronic devices.


This electrochemical device schematic can be applied to:

  • Using waste heat to control transistors 
  • Improving the heat-to-electricity conversion efficiency in thermoelectric devices by adjusting thermal conductivity 
  • Thermal conductance modulation 
  • Electronic or optoelectronic signal modulation 
  • Thermal/electrical/optoelectronic switches and transistors



  • Tunable modulation of material properties 
  • Reversible 
  • Repeatable 
  • Wide range of applications

Patent Status

Patent Pending


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  • Hu, Yongjie

Other Information


Heat transport, thermal management, thermoelectric, ionic motions, electrochemical device, thermal modulation

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