updated 04:40 pm EDT, Thu May 21, 2009
Ionic wind for PC cooling
In the quest to make notebook computers lighter and quieter, researchers are developing new ways of cooling the microprocessors that power these devices. San Jose, CA-based chip-packaging company Tessera has recently demonstrated a new ionic-cooling system that was integrated into a fully functional notebook. Together with researchers at the University of Washington, Tessera believes it would provide 30 percent cooling compared to a traditional fan while consuming half as much power. It would additionally eliminate moving parts and thereby offer quiet operation.
In the prototype, the ionic cooler is placed near a vent inside the notebook. Liquid-filled pipes draw heat away from chips and bring it to the ionic cooling system. The system houses two electrodes, with one ionizing air molecules and the other acting as a receiver for the molecules. Applying voltage to the system makes ions flow from the emitter to the collector, with their momentum pushing neutral air across the hot spot, thereby cooling it. One challenge in the setup involved converting the 12V output to the required 3,000V to operate the cooler while keeping it small. A power supply from a cold cathode fluorescent lamp was used, and took up just 3cm squared (0.46 inches) squared.
Durability is another challenge that needs to be overcome before the technology can be marketed. In testing, the electrode materials are found to be corroding much earlier than a notebook's minimum 30,000-hour lifetime. A prefilter is also required to keep the system free of dust to make it as immune to particles as traditional fans.
Tessera reps are saying the technology could be commercialized as early as 2010. As for pricing, all that was disclosed was that it would be in the "ballpark of where it needs to be."
Tessera has licensed the technology that was based on work done by Alexaner Mamishev, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Washington, back in 2006. Tessera has since made it smaller and potential applications could include notebooks, game systems, projectors and servers. [via TechnologyReview]