Fans are hardly the most power-hungry components in today's PCs, but MSI has nonetheless found a way to reduce their power utilization to zero—at least as far as motherboard chipsets are concerned. As TweakTown reports, MSI has a chipset cooler prototype kicking around in its labs that employs a Stirling engine to power its fan using the heat produced by the chipset.
The Stirling engine concept works a little like a car engine, using pistons to deliver mechanical energy. However, instead of pushing fuel through a valve and burning it to power the pistons, the Stirling engine uses a working gas—usually air, hydrogen, or helium—that's trapped in a closed loop. The gas expands when heated and contracts again when cooled, thereby moving the pistons and powering the engine.
MSI's prototype uses heat from a chipset's north bridge to power the very fan that cools it. An audacious move for sure, but one that apparently works, since TweakTown says MSI had a working concept at its headquarters in Taiwan. The site also says it believes the technology is "not far off from becoming a reality." The cooler will reportedly debut on one of MSI's forthcoming Nvidia-based motherboards.