back to article La Cie's quiet fans

External storage supplier La Cie has found a way to quieten its external drives by adding staggered notches to the trailing edges of the fan blades. How does that work? This is my understanding of the airflow and acoustics involved. A typical drive or CPU-cooling fan has, La Cie says, seven blades. These blades are angled and …


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  1. Martin Lyne


    Looks awesome.

    I wouldn't wnat to turn them on becuase they're so pretty..

  2. Neil Daniels

    The "notches in different places" idea...

    Sounds a bit iffy with regards to keeping the blades balanced.

  3. Anton Ivanov


    Quite surprising that noone thought of using this on fans and propellers for so long (this is actually quite similar to the flutter dampeners present on most aircraft wingtips).

    It will be interesting by how much it will drop the average noise from a modern turboprop. It should increase fuel efficiency and MTBF as well because the dynamic drag from turbulence where the two airflows meet is the one of the biggest factors to make propellers noisy and shorten their lifespan.

  4. Chris Holford
    Thumb Down

    Hardly new

    There's a fan in my XjunkXspares box with exactly this feature; -must be at least 10 years old.

    TBF the notches are the same on each blade, so 'different spacing on each blade' to spread the noise spectrum may be a new feature.Even so, Mercedes have used cooling fans with each blade a dfferent size on some of their cars for years.

  5. Iain

    Slice & Dice

    "The Noctua NF-P12 fan design has nine, not seven, blades" - is this a reference to Life of Brian?

    Anyway, nice idea, I'm off to take a Stanley to my fan to improve cooling.

  6. Diccon

    Extractor fan

    Mmm. Wonder if this would work on the extractor fan in the bathroom which makes a god-awful noise.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cat out of the bag?

    Cool stuff - but now they've bragged about it won't every other fan maker start doing the same thing as well? Or is that what patents are for?

  8. Jet Set Willy

    We're doomed!!

    From Monty Python's Life of Brian...

    "For the demon shall bear a nine-bladed sword. Nine-bladed! Not two or five or seven, but nine, which he will wield on all wretched sinners"

    Mines the anorak with "Romanes Eunt Domus" on the back.

  9. Jamie Kitson

    No Owl?

    Wasn't this design inspired by an owl's wing...?

    No, a bit of searching finds quite a different looking thinkpad fan:

  10. Neil Stansbury

    Elegant solution...

    ....though this has been quite widely investigated in the aerospace community, particularly for the trailing edges of primary stage compressors and turbines:

  11. Lionel Baden
    Thumb Up


    right im off to see to my home computer with a penknife.

    technically no reason it shouldnt work :)

  12. Marcelo Rodrigues

    Not exactly new...

    I remember seeing a fan (was a Xerox one, if I'm not mistaken) with dents on the blades. About 17 years ago. True, it had 5 blades, not 9. But still...

  13. Quantum


    Um, the notches in the picture are on the -leading- edge, not on the trailing edge.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    What effect does it have on air throughput?

    Now the interesting question is; how does the volume of air moved compare between this and a conventional fan design of the same speed/size?

  15. Frank Bough
    Thumb Up

    Humpback Whales

    ...have notches much like these on their flippers. Supposed to hugely benefit stall performance, increase lift and reduce drag.

  16. Murray Pearson

    Humpback whales...

    ...Frank beat me to it.

    The bumps on the front of humpback whale fins (called tubercules) greatly extend the range of windspeeds at which laminar airflow occurs. There is a company called Whalepower ( ) which is testing wind turbine blades with bumpy leading edges; they apparently work quite well.

  17. Brian

    re Dysinformation..

    No they are leading edge. On the Left image the fan spins counter clockwise. They are strange looking blades

  18. Charles Osborne

    Back in the PDP-11 days...

    the big cabinet fans had teeth on their trailing edges. It was the site managers who had teeth on their leading edges.

  19. Richard Boyce

    Flying whales need all the help they can get

    Murray, I didn't know whales could fly. Probably a result of evolutionary pressure from exposure to Infinite Improbability Drives.

  20. Stephane Mabille
    Thumb Up

    Works very well


    Noctua sold those as CPU and case fans for quite a while. They are quite efficient. Replaced all my fans with them a while ago and they are very effective (silent) (especially as they are around the same price as your standard fan....).

  21. Anonymous Coward

    Is thata flux capacitor in the middle of the fan module

    Why yes, I believe it is.

  22. Dennis


    Good link, good teech.

    The thing that made me need a new keyboard was the inventors name: Frank Fish.


    Nearly as good as Lord Chief Justice I Judge....

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    Overpriced crap

    Lacie (Yes LACIE not La Cie -- ask them, they pronounce it lacy) make horrible, heavy, expensive crap. We are forced to purchase some for our apple mac labs as some idiot in a tie told our director that only lacie is supported for firewire 2 video work on mac... ha!!

    I would much rather go out and buy a WD disk drive and a caddy than one of these things. On the other hand, when they die, they make great door stops due to their weight.

  24. Maryland, USA

    How does a 40% drop in noise = 15dB?

    Doesn't every additional 3dB = a 100% rise? Dropping noise by 40%, then, would drop dB by less than 3dB.

  25. Anonymous Coward

    But Why????

    Fascinating article and links (thanks to everyone above), spent a good while reading about whales and such which I didn't expect!

    This is really going to annoy most here I imagine, but after doing a search for the fans - since they're so damn fantastic, do I find they're also so damn ugly! Looks like recycled plastic to me with no option for LED ones!

    Poo poo and pish pish I hear you mumbling as you start to climb on those ever so high horses, but surely the PC modding / gaming or the just really shallow "I want my PC fans to light up" market is huge and yet the ultra quiet fan market seems (for the most part - I know there are a few exceptions) to shun us, sorry - them!!!

    Seems like a bit of a waste of R&D not to make the most capital return you possibly can.

    That's me! Flame away

  26. blackworx

    @ Quantum & But Why????

    Quantum - no, the notches are on the trailing edge.

    But Why???? - the transparent polycarbonate used to make lighty up fans is unfortunately more brittle than that used to make non-lighty-up fans and as a consequence is less well damped and more prone to audible resonance, something you'd understandably want to avoid in a "silent" fan. Or so I've heard.

    Oh, and in addition to the article... I seem to recall the large fin area and small gaps being a design feature adopted by Noctua in their CPU cooler fans to make them cope better with the back pressure provided by your average modern tower heatsink; something Noctua's earlier fans, with their narrow, widely-spaced fins, were not very good at.

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