Researchers at the US Department of Energy's Sandia National Laboratory have developed a new method for cooling microprocessors that is more effective and requires less energy than present air cooling methods. The Air Bearing Heat Exchanger technology, which has been dubbed the "Sandia Cooler," offers a solution to the "thermal brick wall" which has been limiting microprocessor speed.
Cooling is usually limited by the heat exchange taking place through the stationary air film that is found on all materials. The Sandia Cooler improves works by rotating the cooling fins to achieve a ten-fold reduction in the boundary layer of motionless air on the surface of the heat sink which increases heat transfer. Instead of having stationary heat sink fans with air being blown across them with a fan, the heat sink itself spins, which leads to increased heat transfer efficiency.
While the Sandia Cooler is initially being investigated for computer cooling, if it is possible to effectively scale the technology, it could also have applications for building cooling and air conditioning. "If Air Bearing Heat Exchanger technology proves amenable to size scaling, it has the potential to decrease overall electrical power consumption in the U.S. by more than seven percent," according to the inventor, Jeff Koplow.
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