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Miniature refrigerated chips to cool computers


Developed at Purdue University

Researchers at the Mechanical Engineering Department at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana have been working on a new method to cool laptops and desktops, rather than by using a traditional internal fan.

The alternative cooling system under development uses chilled air from refrigerated chips, rather than the room temperature air, that is normally circulated by a fan to lower the internal temperature in such devices. Conventional cooling systems use the fan to circulate air through finned devices called heatsinks that are attached to computer chips.

The Purdue miniature refrigeration devices are designed to dramatically increase how much heat can be removed from a computer. The system relies on tiny compressors and tubing to pump refrigerants through it. These refrigeration tubes are so small that that can they fit onto a chip.

This means that with improved cooling for laptops and desktops there is a reduction in energy usage and since the parts are not exposed to so much heat, perhaps a longer life for some of the parts, including processors.

The refrigerated chips have been in development for several years, according to Suresh Garimella, the R. Eugene and Susie E. Goodson Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Purdue University. "It's unlikely that your run-of-the-mill laptop will have a refrigeration system in a year or two," said Garimella. "You're more likely to see it in gaming systems, and then, in time, you'll find the system in other computers. I'd say in two years you'll see it in high-end laptops."

Garimella went on to state that improved cooling for laptops and desktops could mean a reduction in energy usage. And by getting better management of heat output, manufacturers should be able to build smaller and smaller computers.

The Purdue research lab is funded by several high-tech companies, including Apple, Honeywell, Intel, Sony and Sun Microsystems.

Last modified on 02 July 2008
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