Saturday, August 26, 2006

Tiny ion pump sets new standard in cooling hot computer microchips (article)

The University of Washington reports: "researchers have succeeded in building a cooling device tiny enough to fit on a computer chip that could work reliably and efficiently with the smallest microelectronic components. ... The device, which uses an electrical charge to create a cooling air jet right at the surface of the chip, could be critical to advancing computer technology because future chips will be smaller, more tightly packed and are likely to run hotter than today's chips. As a result, tomorrow's computers will need cooling systems far more efficient than the fans and heat sinks that are used today."

As computer chips become more and more powerful, cooling them has become a very HOT topic these days (yes, the pun was intended). Over the years I have seen a lot of COOL technologies to remove heat from these chips, such as:
  • Air Cooling: A fan used in conjunction with a heatsink, is the most popular form of cooling computer chips today. The fans move air through the case to cool the components, the problem with this technology is that its loud. Also as components get hotter and hotter, this technology will lose its ability to adequately cool them.
  • Liquid Cooling: Works really well, and is quiet, the problem is that it's expensive to buy and cumbersome to install. It uses different types of fluids flowing through pipes attached to heatsinks to remove the heat from the chip.
    • IMHO: I think in the not too distant future the higher-end PCs will have liquid cooling as a standard option.
  • Peltier Coolers Works really well, and is quiet, but is very expensive. Basically it's a small thermoelectric refrigerator that sits on top of the chip to cool it. Peltier coolers have other problems, like they're power hogs, can generate condensation, and they produce a lot of heat themselves.
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