back to article Boffins build copper-crunching laptop cooler

General Electric nanotech scientists have have come up with a heat-conducting system that's more than twice as efficient as copper yet has a quarter of the metal's weight. The design paves the way for faster, lighter computers and mobiles, the company claimed. The system can be laid on top of a chip - and pretty much any …

COMMENTS

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  1. SImon Hobson Bronze badge

    Hmm, high tech twist on an old idea

    Looks just like the partial vacuum heat pipes that have been around for a long time - with some added nano-stuff.

    1. Ammaross Danan
      Coat

      Video Card coolers

      Um...video card coolers (notably the Radeon 69xx series) use a "vapor chamber" tech for their heatsinks. Evap on the chip side, condense on the radiator side. The only "new" tech in this GE research is the nano-bits on each side and the wick in the middle. The actual usage of evap and condensing is old tech.

  2. Cucumber C Face
    Black Helicopters

    Other cooling options

    1. Scoop up sea water using a bucket dangling underneath a helicopter

    2. Empty bucket in general vicinity of laptop

  3. Dick Emery
    Grenade

    TEPCO

    Would like word with you.

  4. Stevie
    Joke

    Bah!

    Nothing says top-o-the-line laptop like a jet of live steam shooting out of the side of the case.

    This could make the goolie-cooking battery look like child's play in comparison, but this time it will be the person in the seat next to you screaming "Lawks a Lordy my 'nads are afire!"

    Two thumbs up.

  5. Marky W
    Grenade

    'phase change'

    Why the quotes? Makes you sound like Dr Evil saying 'laser'.

    Most of us commentards have a reasonable education in science, you know...

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New?

    What am I missing here that is new? Heat pipes utilising phase change to cool have been part of CPU coolers for a good while now.

  7. Steve X
    Coat

    Steam?

    Roll on the latest '70s comeback - the Teasmade laptop.

  8. brain_flakes
    WTF?

    Heat pipes?

    This seems to basically be a development of phase change heat pipes. I don't really care how efficient it is vs solid copper, I want to know how much more (or not) efficient it is against existing heat pipe technology.

  9. Francis Boyle

    "The heat causes the water to shift from a liquid to a gas"

    Interesting - someone should coin a word for that process.

    1. Ryan 7
      Coat

      I think it's

      "Boiling Water Reactor"

    2. Ball boy Silver badge
      Joke

      Name

      ...and with a surname like yours, Francis, I'd be surprised if you couldn't think of a relational law that concerns gases.

      ;-)

  10. G C M Roberts
    Coat

    Looking forward to

    ...my George Stevenson laptop cooler.

    Got to get my coat as I need to throw some more coal on the CPU

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Erm

    "This 'phase change' consumes heat energy"

    Erm, isn't this how a fridge works albeit with a refrigerant other than water?

    1. Charles 9

      Yes, but there are differences.

      The biggest one is the need for an electric motor to power the compressor. The compressor is key as it pressurizes the heated refrigerant and raises its temperature above room temperature, encouraging it to give up its heat before it begins the cooling cycle again at the restrictor.

      This tech seems aimed at condensing the heat exchange system and designing it so that it doesn't need as much power or space to run effectively.

    2. Stevie

      Bah!

      Not really, because the fridge recondenses the refrigerant round the back where you can't see. It just moves a small bit of heat somewhere else (while making it very much hotter).

      The laptop not only boils the water, it shoots it out of the case. It is more akin to the Apollo Command Module heat shield in operation (only there it was solid to liquid phase transition with the hot liquid being blown away).

      Of course, if your fridge leaks its refrigerant, then yes, it is just like the laptop cooler.

      The main issue that I can see working against this live-steam nad-cooker is that eventually the sponge must dry out, at which point the cooling effect is abruptly offline. Will there be adequate control systems to scram the processor in the event of coolant starvation, or are people once again just crossing their fingers and hoping there won't be a meltdown?

      Also, I have concerns about these laptops turning aircraft into flying turkish baths. I've never been in one, but I am highly suspicious of them on principle.

      And what about the threat of mildew in the carry-on luggage?

      This technology seems to raise more questions than it answers.

  12. Neoc

    Steam!

    "The world will be saved by steam!" -- Professor Steamhead, Ninja High School.

  13. James Thomas 1
    Flame

    Hello ATI

    Isn't this just Sapphire's method of cooling ATI graphics cards vapor-x:

    http://www.sapphiretech.com/presentation/VaporX/VaporX_index.aspx?cid=2

  14. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Coat

    It's a chip scale heat pipe

    When you scale down the heat pipes you have to scale down it's components. Note that normal scale heat pipes have been described as having a thermal conductivity 600x that of an equivalent thickness Copper bar, so only 2x is not very good (but one of the issues with this sort of micro/nano engineering is the unexpected *highly* non-linear scaling effects. The point at which "drops" of water are more accurately clusters of water molecules, for example).

    "Phase change." Would it seem less high tech if we called it "boiling" and "condensing" instead?

    Because that *is* what is happening,

    I'm guessing (because lets be frank this is not a very tech article) a *lot* of the clever stuff is the *manufacturing* of the thing, rather than the idea itself.

    The *implication* would be the pipe (or pipes) mfg process could be *integrated* into the chip fab process itself. Chilling out those monster power transistors on RF or power devices, as well as keeping the SiGe Copper interconnected processor cores of your next gen processors from meltdown

    *if* correct, that would make it as big a step forward as the introduction of Copper (by IBM) as an on chip interconnect and SiGe for very fast chips.

    *potentially* a gold mine if GE can get the IP licensing deal right.

    Mine has the PDF's of "The MEMS handbook 2nd Ed" on a reader.

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