Way back in 2011, we posted an article on an innovative cooler that used a rotating hunk of metal as both a heatsink and fan. Designed by Sandia National Laboratories, the "air bearing heat exchanger" promised better efficiency and lower noise levels. Sandia was looking into licensing options at the time, and it seems to have found some, because Cooler Master has partnered with a company called CoolChip Technologies on a seemingly identical approach. Scott caught up with the spinning wonder at CES yesterday.
Dubbed the Kinetic Cooling Engine, this contraption rotates a finned heatsink on top of a thin cushion of air. It's claimed to offer 50% better cooling than traditional solutions at half the size and, more importantly, with "significantly lower noise levels." Scott saw a demo of the cooler versus a laptop-style blower, and he reports that the new solution was "silent" compared to the "noisy whine" of the blower.
With relatively compact proportions, the Kinetic Cooling Engine has intriguing potential for mobile and small-form-factor systems. A server-oriented version is also in development, but we're told that consumer derivatives are coming first.
One of Cooler Master's desktop prototypes surrounds the spinning heatsink with a ringed radiator that hooks into the base via heatpipes. Cooling duties are split between the radiator and heatsink, and because the latter generates its own airflow, there's no need for a separate fan. Despite the extra radiator, the cooler remains relatively compact—and much shorter than typical air towers.
Cooler Master might want to add some sort of grill to prevent errant fingers from being shredded by the heatsink, though. Getting nicked by plastic fan blades doesn't feel nice, and I imagine those metal fins do a lot more damage when spinning at high speed.
We don't have firm details on pricing or availability, but Cooler Master is aiming to be cost-competitive with existing solutions. If you want to learn more about the technology, check out this Sandia whitepaper (PDF), which explains the approach in great detail—and with a lot of math.
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