Aside from hard drives, one of the main culprits behind noise production in today's PCs is air cooling. Fans have definitely gotten bigger and quieter in recent years, but they can still be loud—especially if they start to wear out and begin ticking or humming. According to iTnews Australia, however, U.S.-based researchers have developed a new "fan" design that doesn't actually have any moving parts.
The design is nicknamed RSD5, and iTnews Australia says it took Dan Schlitz and Vishal Singhal of Thorrn Micro Technologies six years to develop. In short, RSD5 uses electric fields to generate a plasma that can move air. Singhal describes it as follows:
He explained that RSD5 incorporates a series of live wires that generate a micro-scale plasma (an ion-rich gas that has free electrons that conduct electricity).
The wires lie within uncharged conducting plates that are contoured into half-cylindrical shapes to partially envelop the wires.
Within the intense electric field that results, ions push neutral air molecules from the wire to the plate, generating a wind. The phenomenon is called corona wind.
The result is a device that generates three times the air flow of a small fan at just a quarter of the size. In fact, iTnews says an RSD5 "smaller than one cubic-cm" is capable of cooling a 25W chip—roughly the power envelope of today's laptop processors. Singhal and Schlitz believe they can go so far as to integrate the cooling system into the silicon to make "self-cooling chips," as well.
Update: TR reader JPK has spotted a picture of the RSD5 on Thorrn Micro Technologies' website:
Thorrn says the active area of the device in the picture measures just 15 x 15 mm, or 0.59" x 0.59".