New IBM technologies promise better chip cooling

— 12:27 PM on October 27, 2006

IBM researchers in Zurich, Switzerland have come up with two ways to improve processor cooling, EE Times reports. The first technology, dubbed high thermal conductivity interface, involves a heat spreader with a "network of tree-like branched channels on its surface." The pattern allows thermal paste to spread more evenly and for pressure from the heatsink to be distributed more uniformly across a chip. The improvement in thermal conductivity is such that IBM says the technology allows 10 times better heat transport with half the pressure required by current coolers.

Inspiration to develop the technology came from nature, where networks of branch-like structures can be found in a variety of places, from the human circulatory system to tree roots. From this observation came an idea for another technology known as direct jet impingement, which is applied to water cooling. Direct jet impingement technology "squirts water onto the back of the chip and sucks it off again in a closed system using an array of up to 50,000 micronozzles and a complicated tree-like branched return architecture." The technology allows cooling densities of 370W/cm²—five times better than current air cooling systems—while requiring less pumping power than other cooling systems.

Direct jet impingement is still "years away" from hitting the market, but EE Times says IBM is already talking to multiple chip vendors to license the technology. A first implementation involving heat-conductive paste could become available as early as next year, too.

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