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Next Generation CPU Refrigerators 154

Iddo Genuth writes "Researchers at Purdue University are developing a miniature refrigeration system, small enough to fit inside laptop computers. According to the researchers, the implementation of miniature refrigeration systems in computers can dramatically increase the amount of heat removed from the microchips, therefore boosting performance while simultaneously shrinking the size of computers."
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Next Generation CPU Refrigerators

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  • Excellent (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:52PM (#24313283)

    The implementation of miniature refrigeration systems in computers can dramatically increase the amount of heat removed from the microchips.

    Of course, the next step will be to dramatically increase the heat output of high-end CPUs. Aren't arms races fun?

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by RuBLed ( 995686 )
      This will pave the way for the Year of Linux on the Desktop! (or Laptop)

      with apologies to our aquatic, flightless and mostly cold-loving friend
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Don't you mean the Year of Vista on the Desktop? A more unattainable goal, and more related to the issue of insane heat generation...

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Dekker3D ( 989692 )

          .. i think it was a reference to tux ("our aquatic, flightless and mostly cold-loving friend"), living on the cpu, in the mini-fridge.
          ha-ha, i'd say, but... naw.

          now... if we're putting fridges in our computers, we might as well grab a beer and start running unix. i mean, who cares what you're trying to run when you're drunk?

    • by plover ( 150551 ) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:57PM (#24313817) Homepage Journal
      I thought the next step would be to dramatically decrease the size of beer cans to fit in these miniature refrigerators.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by b4upoo ( 166390 )

      Condensation is a wonderful by product of refrigeration. The love of PC electronics for oozing water is well known. Perhaps refrigeration is not the best idea inside a PC case.

      • There used to be a joke doing the rounds

        Why are the Brits no good at making computers?

        Because they can't figure out how to make them leak oil

        -which is a dig at the British car industry. Given that British cars were even better at leaking water than oil - there is real hope here for a rejuvination of the British computer industry.

      • Re:Excellent (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Loke the Dog ( 1054294 ) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @10:11AM (#24317971)

        To put it simply: That is not a big problem, there are many ways around it. The big problem, I would say, is that refrigeration requires energy which is in short supply for laptops. Whats even worse is that refrigeration allows the computer itself to consume more energy, which creates a circle that just isnt sustainable.

        This basic idea has been around for ages, and it has never been put to use simply because it creates more problems than it solves. Do we really need more CPU power in laptops? Is that really what we need from them? No, improved human interface devices, uptime and bandwidth are more important goals.

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 )
          The whole concept flies in the face of all day use, overnight recharge UMPCs. It really is pointless technology. The big technology push should be for fan less CPU's to further conserve power and limit noise.
    • Introducing the Core 2 Quad Prescott!

      WARNING: Use with improper cooling equipment may cause the earth to go supernova. Such incidents are not covered by the manufacturer's warranty. Your PC may require an upgraded power supply unit. Check your local nuclear proliferation treaties before upgrading your PSU.

  • Won't they dramatically increase the amount of heat they radiate as well?
    • Re:Hotter? (Score:4, Informative)

      by treeves ( 963993 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @08:58PM (#24313325) Homepage Journal
      Yes, but heat flow != temperature.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by aliquis ( 678370 )

      Yeah I don't get this, the heat need to leave the laptop somehow, and since the refrigerator will have to be within the laptop the heat remains inside it. Also since the refrigerator won't be 100% effecient this will both generate MORE heat and energy from the battery.

      Sure the CPU may get colder, but your lap will get warmer. Bad trade I'd say.

      • Re:Hotter? (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Bloodoflethe ( 1058166 ) <jburkhart@n[ ] ['ym.' in gap]> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:54PM (#24313785)

        Yeah I don't get this, the heat need to leave the laptop somehow, and since the refrigerator will have to be within the laptop the heat remains inside it

        The refrigerator's exterior heat exchanging pipes don't have to be inside the refrigerator itself. They didn't give any technical specs, so what are you worried about? Surely if they are working on this project, they'll have thought or experienced this problem if they were putting all items in the same location.

        Also, consider that, to a point, the ambient heat inside a laptop can be higher, as long as the PUs are kept cool. Of course if this were the only consideration, eventually the ambient heat would screw all the components except for the processors, but, as I said, they've considered this already. I'm sure of it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by aliquis ( 678370 )

          Well, personally I don't care if my CPU is 45 degrees or 75 degrees as long as my lap isn't 70 degrees.

          And the sad fact with my MBP is that it probably is :D (no it's not but it's too hot.)
          I'd so take 5 mm fatter computer for better cooling :/

          • I expect the heat will be vented out the sides like with current computer designs. Since this is cooling below ambient temperature then it seems sensible to assume that even more heat would be generated than just normal cooling methods.

            The main problem I can see with this isn't anything to do with heat - it's power. Surely it's better to have an efficient low power processor that doesn't generate much heat to a superfast low efficiency (ie wasting a lot of energy through heat) processor that then needs even

        • Re:Hotter? (Score:5, Funny)

          by KGIII ( 973947 ) <> on Thursday July 24, 2008 @03:48AM (#24315625) Journal

          they've considered this already. I'm sure of it.

          More famous last words have ne'er been spoken.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Enderandrew ( 866215 )

        Refrigeration systems use compressors, which are big power drags. The battery drain here can not be overlooked.

        Refrigeration systems from desktops exist, and they are called water-coolers.

      • Re:Hotter? (Score:4, Insightful)

        by txoof ( 553270 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @10:07PM (#24313897) Homepage

        Of course the cooling system will use power and generate heat, but that heat won't necessarily be as much as a fan. A fan uses power to dissipate heat and in the process generates heat. I don't know the proper thermodynamic way to state this, but it's possible to make a more or less efficient cooling system. For example, it would be exceedingly inefficient to use a V8 engine to cool a laptop. It would do a hell-of a job of cooling the thing, but it would generate a whole lot more heat and suck down a whole lot more energy than a small electric fan.

        This thing might use less power and do a better job of moving power than a fan. I have no idea if this thing works better. If this device is more efficient than a fan (uses less energy and releases less heat), then it would be superior and would not make a lappy hotter. Otherwise, it's really only good for server applications where the heat can be pumped outside the box that holds the server.

        • How do you cool using a V8? You'd still need a fan attached to it do move any heat away. An electric fan will produce hardly any heat compared to the heat being generated by your average desktop CPU, which can easily get up to over 100 degrees C if it isn't being cooled.

          If this thing is cooling the CPU to below room temperature, then it has to be expelling more heat than a standard fan. The motor for a fan, and the bearings in the fan, will produce a bit of heat, but it will be nothing compared to the heat

          • by txoof ( 553270 )

            How do you cool using a V8? You'd still need a fan attached to it do move any heat away.

            We don't need no steenking fan! You just strap the bare motherboard to the roof of your V8 1970 Pontiac Firebird and drive between 90 and 100 mph. No fan, but adequate cooling as long as you're not stuck in traffic.

      • No, your lap won't get hotter, as more heat will be sucked from laptop. This means you will be able to use your laptop as hair dryer. (More heat taken from cpu, radiator will be hotter).
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        agreed, the problem remain exchange that heat with the ambient, but a refrigerator have two nice property: the first is that it's very efficient to move heat from one point to another (imagine using the back of the lcd as heat exchanger)
        the second property is that using heatsink you have the cpu at 60C, the sink at 60C and the ambient at 20C so the exchange is at 40 degree difference. using a refrigerator you will have the cpu at 40, the dissipation surface at 80, and the exchange at 60 degree, which is mo
      • Heat is dissipated by a temperature difference. By pumping heat out to a higher temperature radiating surface you can dramatically increase the amount of heat dissipated at the cost of power. A small single radiator could be fitted some where actually lowering the temperature inside the case (but raising the temperature of the exhaust.) This is good for cooling but bad for power consumption.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )
        We already deal with this with heat pipes. This is just using a heat pump instead of a heat pipe, active rather than passive. The goal is to move the heat away from the CPU core, to someplace you have more room for a heat sink and fan (like way over at a corner of the system instead of the middle of the motherboard.)
  • How much juice? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fyoder ( 857358 ) * on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:00PM (#24313337) Homepage Journal

    And how much electricity will this consume? It may not be that appealing to laptop users if it eats significantly into their battery life. And for servers many colo companies are finding themselves less constrained by space than by available electricity.

    • Re:How much juice? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by megaditto ( 982598 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:29PM (#24313593)

      Could be pretty damn efficient if it's a heat pump.

      A good AC unit usually consumes less than 10 times the energy it moves (a 1 kW window unit rated for 40,000 BTUs for example), but that depends how much colder the inside needs to be compared to the outside air.

      In case of CPU coolers (cooling things hotter than ambient air), one could even GENERATE electricity if the size and cost of the "cooler" is not a concern (A thick diamond heatpipe to conduct heat away to distant thermocouples is how I would do it).

      • by houghi ( 78078 ) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @06:52AM (#24316339)

        one could even GENERATE electricity

        1) Build a data center
        2) Rent it out
        3) Generate Electricity
        4) Profit!

        So now we know why Google wants all the data of the world running on their servers. They are not competing with Microsoft. They are competing with the oil industry.

      • You can generate electricity from temperature difference, resulting in a slower heat flow. Or you can increase the temperature differences at the expense of energy. You cannot improve the heat flow and at the same time generate electricity.
    • I've always thought a small solar panel on the back of the screen would be a good idea; solar panel technology has been a little limiting for that, though. While it wouldn't be able to power the whole computer, maybe, if the technology is good enough and cheap enough, it could be used for a little refrigeration. I wouldn't want it to go below about 28 Celsius here, anyway, since I live in the tropics. The humidity would condense if the computer were kept much colder.
      • The 15" MacBook Pro is not a huge laptop, and its dimensions are 2.59 cm by 35.7 cm. This gives 0.0092463 square metres of area. On average, the sunlight falling to Earth is 164 Watts per square metre. This gives 1.5W falling onto something the area of a MacBook Pro. If you had a 100% efficient solar panel, you could get 1.5W. Most solar panels are a maximum of about 10% efficient, so this gives 150mW. This, of course, is assuming that the laptop is angled so the back faces the sun. In practice, the

  • by Rui del-Negro ( 531098 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:04PM (#24313369) Homepage

    the implementation of miniature refrigeration systems in computers can dramatically increase the amount of heat removed from the microchips, therefore boosting performance

    Really? So my CPU will perform faster if I put it in a refigerator?

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Yes, if you take advantage of the extra heat absorption by overclocking the CPU to run faster.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So it's the overclocking (i.e., increasing the clock frequency) that makes your CPU run faster, not the fact that it's cooler, as the article implies. And some CPUs generate more heat than other CPUs with lower clock speeds, so that relationship isn't a linear one, either.

        Also, most modern high-end CPUs can't be overclocked by much, regardless of how cold you make them. The problem isn't heat, the problem is how fast the transistors can switch while remaining in sync. Sure, if you buy a low-end CPU from a h

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by billcopc ( 196330 )

          most modern high-end CPUs can't be overclocked by much, regardless of how cold you make them

          The half-dozen Core-2 Q6600s I've taken from 2.4ghz to 3.6ghz would argue otherwise, as would the QX9650 that I pushed to 4.7ghz. But hey, what do I know, right ?

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          It's been my experience with many modern laptops that they tend to slow down when they near their shutdown temperatures. I don't know if it's a direct result of the heat or some software actually slowing the processor to try and generate less heat or something else, but when both my Dell and Toshiba get near their shutdown temperatures (somewhere around 90C) they both slow noticably. They both speed up again if their internal temperatures start to drop.
    • Actually yea... (Score:2, Informative)

      by Kaeles ( 971982 )
      You need to remember that 90% of laptop CPUs will automatically downclock themselves if they are overheating (or over a certain temperature threshold.) They also do this if the cpu is more idle.
  • I've been doing this for years! I bought a minifridge for the very specific purpose of cannibalizing it for parts. Yeah, my case is 10lb heavier, but the internal temperature is 60 at any given time. It's indispensable nowadays with the exceedingly hot-running GPUs out there (I'm looking at you, GeForce 8800!) I think that a commercial product is a good idea, but I can see electric bills all over the country screaming in pain.
  • Condensation? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by SoapBox17 ( 1020345 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:07PM (#24313393) Homepage
    Don't air conditioning units tend to produce a bit of water condensation during cooling? I guess we'll have to start emptying the water out of our PCs....
    • Re:Condensation? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Smidge204 ( 605297 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:21PM (#24313517) Journal

      Only because they cool below the dew point - which, in turn, is dependent on the humidity levels.

      People who build active cooling into their computers (for overclocking) typically insulate the chip(s) and cooling block to keep air-exposed surfaces at or above ambient temperatures for just that reason.

      Also, even if it does produce condensation I'd say there's little reason to worry... just recycle the condensate to provide evaporative cooling on the (much hotter) heat sink side of the system.

      • An alternative... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by jd ( 1658 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {kapimi}> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:46PM (#24313729) Homepage Journal to position the computer upside-down. Condensation does not form on the hot surfaces, only the cold surfaces. If the cold surfaces cause the water to drip away, there is no way for the water to interfere. Another option is to refrigerate the entire computer (which is done by overclockers), as the coldest point will then be far away, and you've the added bonus that the air will be very dry within a short timeframe.

        A third option would be to run copper from each chip surface to the refrigerator. The heat gradient will prevent any chip running hot, you only need one refrigerator, and you can handle the case of the heavy workloads shifting from one part of the system to another.

    • Re:Condensation? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Enderandrew ( 866215 ) <enderandrew@gmaG ... minus herbivore> on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:59PM (#24313835) Homepage Journal

      Not to mention the reason you get condensation in a fridge is often that a single compressor operates both the fridge and freezer. Systems with different compressors for the two systems are more segregated, and have less condensation problems. Each system stays at a controlled humidity level.

  • Nothin' better (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Audent ( 35893 )

    than a game and a beer. Preferably a cold one.

    and now... the Dell Smeg Fridgo'matic Dual Core.

    (yes, I did just write smeg. tee hee. tee hee hee).

  • Side Question??? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TheCastro ( 1329551 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:10PM (#24313421)
    Whenever I hear about new cooling solutions I remember a few years back someone had developed that liquid (or gel) that you could submerge computers and tvs into, but it wouldn't fry them. Everyone was talking about using this nonbonding liquid to cool computers and use to put out fires in places with paintings since it didn't ruin the paint. Does anyone know or remember what I'm talking about, or do I just sound like a crazy man,HAHAHAHAHAH! P.S. Bill Gates probably bought it to throw away.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Regardless of the cooling ability, it will put the same load on the laptop's battery, likely a little bit more because it has to run the compressors.

    And that heat still needs to be dumped somewhere...

    I guess this would be great for certain difficult hot-spots on the board, but a well-designed heat sink can usually handle it. The trade-off is that it adds more weight.

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      "And that heat still needs to be dumped somewhere."

      Well this is Next Generation - they will send the heat out the main warp exhaust ports. Either that or Geordi will reconfigure the main deflector to emit a tachyon pulse...

    • by txoof ( 553270 )

      It still drains the battery, but not necessarily the same way that a fan drains a battery. Think of the difference between a compact fluorescent versus an incandescent bulb. They can both be tuned to release a certain amount of light, but the CF will release a whole lot less heat and use less energy to do the same job as the incandescent light. In this case, the CF bulb is vastly more efficient in doing the work of emitting light.

      The article doesn't say anything about the amount of energy the new pump use

    • by EmbeddedJanitor ( 597831 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @10:23PM (#24314011)
      And make your own hotspot.
  • My issues are resolved. If I accidentally spill coffee on my laptop, I'll have iced coffee as the byproduct and that ain't too bad, is it?
  • Hype (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MojoRilla ( 591502 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @09:17PM (#24313487)
    The article says:

    The researchers developed an analytical model for designing tiny compressors that pump refrigerants using penny-sized diaphragms. This model has been validated with experimental data.

    This is completely impractical hype so far. We are looking for grant and startup money.

  • Mini-Aircon DIY (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by hardburn ( 141468 )

    Thought of this idea recently while trying to think of ideas for cooling my computer while making less noise:

    Take a small engine from an RC car or airplane (two stroke will probably be best). Jam the throttle wide open and unscrew the high speed needle all the way. Put one pipe on the carb (with a good seal), and then another one on the exhaust with a smaller internal diameter than the first. Couple the two pipes together and have a fan on each side. Then have a small electric motor spin the engine. The sid

    • I don't think so, other than making a lot of noise and using more electricity I dont think it would do much of anything, you could use it to create a vortex heat exchanger, but your engine would have to be running at RPM's far beyond what a normal combustion engine can run (like in the 100,000+ RPM range).

      Besides, if you are doing that, you may aswell go for full condensing cooling, which a combustion engine wouldnt be able to handle because they dont seal well enough to create enough pressure needed, thats

    • by nasch ( 598556 )

      If you're just running air through the engine with no combustion, there's no net compression. The cylinder would draw air in on the down stroke, close the intake valve, compress the air on the upstroke, and the air would expand again on the downstroke, leaving the air at its original volume, open the exhaust valve, and expel the air. Repeat. So you would be just using up power to do nothing, unless I'm missing something that this coupler is doing.

      • I specified 2-stroke engines, which do not understand the concept of "valves". The coupler would also restrict the airflow before releasing it to the larger pipe, so incoming air would be compressed. This is basically the same as any othe AC, just smaller.

  • I already spend most of my time in front of either my PC or my refrigerator as it is.
  • and bring that cooling around to that cupholder thing on the side of my laptop, I could keep my beer cool as well while I'm downloading pr0n.

  • I wonder what kind of power these little diaphragms suck down. I imagine that a liquid based cooling system is more efficient than one based on circulating air. It's great that this technology can move heat away faster, but I wonder if it can do it at a lower power cost.

  • to fit *inside* a beer can?

  • Miniature? I personally don't see the problem with lugging around something like this... []

    Hell, I might just get one of those for checking my email on the go.

  • bad idea (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ILuvRamen ( 1026668 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @10:15PM (#24313955)
    First of all I've been saying for years, just screw the motherboard into the back of your mini-fridge and keep installing from there. You just open the door to put in a CD lol. But also, not all components can handle active cooling. My old laptop got really hot playing games. So I used ice packs under it to cool it. It got the temp way down but the hard drive died after about a month from the extreme hot-cold difference. I assume some external parts contracted while internal ones remained hot and expanded and some parts rubbed against other parts and it got damaged. I was able to get the data off after like 10 blue screens. So the moral of the story is, active cooling that can cool it lower than the surrounding air temperature is REALLY, REALLY BAD for some internal parts.
  • by Loopy ( 41728 ) on Wednesday July 23, 2008 @10:22PM (#24313999) Journal
    "In today's news, a new CPU refrigerant system causes massive data loss for users as hard drives overheat and fail prematurely from abnormally high case temperatures. Film at 11."
  • Check the back of your fridge, it's hot.

    So by cooling by this method you may cool the cpu surface, butyou will produce alot more heat out of the laptop.

    Fried laps ?

  • I say it every year and this is as good a place to say it as any.

    The easiest way to get the watts off your processor and out of your PC is...

    not to put them in. Duh. Fortunately, somebody is listening. [] Finally.

    • The next billion users just don't have the watts to put in. See this firehose article [] referencing this news report []: IT capital Bangalore to face power cuts.

      Intermittent power outages are going to pay hob with your VOIP-based tech-support unless they've got their redundant power bases covered. Normal users? If you aren't solar and wireless, you're offline for up to two hours each day. You kilowatt gamers? You'll have to goldfarm later I guess.

    • by ejecta ( 1167015 )

      I agree completely! Right here I run two PC's first based on VIA PC2500E motherboard like the GPC which was on /. awhile ago and the second is the VIA MM/PC3500 which is essentially the same + PCI-Express x16 slot and HDTV.

      They're not bad, the motherboard & onboard CPU costs less than most other plain motherboards for Intel/AMD.

      • That's a good choice. If you need another Mythbuntu client though you might try the Intel Atom motherboard []. They've made great strides in power efficiency and it seems they'll make more.

        I recommend the Pico PSU [] power kit to go with both yours and this new one. DC is the wave of the future.

        • by ejecta ( 1167015 )

          I would like to invest in 2x PicoPSU's but simply can't afford it at this stage... am just using a bogdy 40 watt psu out of a circa 2004 IBM Netvista.

          Uses alot more power due to inefficency but I figure cutting down from a Athlon 2000XP to this will save a fair bit of juice considering it's on 24x7 365 days a year.

          I've had a look at the Intel offerings but they're hard to lay your hands on over here (Australia) and from what I've read whilst the cpu is low power the northbridge can burn quite a bit of juice

  • A lot of people have mentioned how this would warm your lap unacceptably. So why not put the warm side of the heat pump somewhere in the display section? I don't know of too many reasons why one need to keep their hands on the display, let alone hold the laptop by it.

    Better yet, skip the fridge idea altogether, use something passive, and turn the entire backside of the display section into a giant heat sink. I'm sure someone can figure out how to make a flexible heat pipe to pass across the hinges.

    You co

    • by intx13 ( 808988 )

      LCD panels are very sensitive to heat; if you check your laptop's manual it'll probably have a phrase in there about keeping the display out of direct sunlight for too long, due to heat concerns. The back of a panel full of LCDs is not the place to be dumping dozens of Watts of heat!

  • by BobMcD ( 601576 ) on Thursday July 24, 2008 @09:10AM (#24317149)

    ...but does it protect from nuclear blasts???

  • My last laptop would burn my leg if I took it from the table to a chair and actually had it in my lap.

    Even if they make my CPU happy and cool I want to know where they emit all that heat!

  • Oh good, another complex mechanical system to fail. When this one goes, either your CPU melts or temp sensors shut down your system until you replace it.

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