Ionic wind engine nearly halves processor temps

— 2:27 PM on August 15, 2007

Researchers at Purdue University have developed an ionic wind engine that can significantly enhance the efficiency of conventional processor coolers. EE times has the details here:

The ionic wind engine prototype consists of two high-voltage electrodes positioned on either side of a chip's backside. By putting a thousand voltage potential between the electrodes, air molecules become charged and an ionic wind is generated between them across the surface of the chip. Ordinarily the "no-slip" effect in air flow keeps the air molecules closest to a surface increasingly stationary, thereby inhibiting thermal transfer. However, if ionic wind engines could be integrated in arrays on the backside of chips, then normal cooling fans would become more than double their efficiency because air near the surface of chips would no longer be stationary.
In the researchers' tests, a chip running at a temperature of 60°C with normal cooling equipment saw its temperature dip to 35°C thanks to the ionic wind engine. Purdue Professor Suresh Garimella comments, "We get a 250 percent improvement in heat-transfer coefficient." However, he adds, "The key challenges ahead are ensuring that we can operate at lower voltages, and making sure we have a robust electrode design." (Thanks to TR reader MrJP for the tip.)
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