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Literally Cool Laptops

Posted by: Helen Walters on August 15, 2007

Interesting report from Purdue University, where researchers have been working with Intel on a new technology to improve computer chip cooling. In a completely unscientific survey of one, I can vouch for the fact that every laptop I’ve ever had has attained volcanic heat levels after not so long in use, so I’m happy to hear it. As computers get more powerful, the problem’s only going to get worse, and such intense heat can’t be good for either hardware or laps.

This nanotechnology is cool, too. As the university’s associate professor of mechanical engineering, Timothy Fisher, kindly explained, a positively charged wire attracts electrons emitted by negatively charged electrodes. Along the way, those electrons collide with air molecules, which head back towards the electrodes and thus cool the surface of the chip. As Fisher poetically puts it, it’s an “ionic wind”. Used in conjunction with traditional fans, airflow on the surface of the chip could be increased by as much as 250%.

The technology won’t be commercially available for another three years or so, but Fisher and his colleagues are already looking to develop versions to live within devices such as PDAs and cell phones, which have similar issues of increasing sophistication and power but accompanying, molten lava-esque heat.



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