Saturday, August 18, 2007

New Wind Engines Beat the Heat

As computers grow increasingly powerful, computer chips are becoming more and more densely packed with transistors, the basic building blocks of microprocessors. As a result, a knotty problem is that these faster chips produce more heat. So, unless you are planning to get a water cooled rig, dissipating the heat is a concern.The classic solution is to use a simple fan to blow the heat away, so the CPU can keep doing its job. But this conventional cooling technique is limited because it suffers from air-flow problems; the molecules nearest the chip often get stuck and remain stationary, hindering the cooling effect. But now some US researchers from Purdue have developed a new "wind engine" that could take computing power to the next level.

The tiny wind engines are only a few millimeters wide, and produce an "ionic wind" that works by shifting charged particles from one end of the device to the other. As a voltage is applied to the ionic engine, positively charged particles (ions) are produced, which are then dragged towards a negatively charged wire (a cathode). When used in conjunction with a conventional fan, this dramatically increases air movement, up to 250% in certain cases. That increases the power to cooling ratio dramatically; maybe you won't have to run off to Iceland to host your servers after all.Next step is miniaturization; apparently the current size of a few millimeters is still too large, and it needs to be 100 times smaller. However, if miniaturization is successful, the device could be introduced into products within the next three years. ::BBC News

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