Intel talks laptop cooling, power saving

Having an ultra-thin, ultra-light laptop is great—except if you burn your legs after using it on your lap for too long. As CNet News reports, Intel Mobile Platforms Group head Mooly Eden discussed that problem at this week’s Intel Developer Forum in Taiwan, and he said the company has been working on an interesting solution. In essence, Intel wants to use technology from jet engines to keep laptop enclosures cool to the touch:

Eden showed an animation of a jet engine to prove his point. The inside of a jet engine can get as hot as 1,000 degrees centigrade. But the jet engine’s wall must be kept cool because it is connected to the wing where the fuel is. To keep the engine heat away from the wing, laminar air flow cooling is used.
A laminar flow occurs when a fluid–or air in this case–flows in parallel layers.

Intel demonstrated a system using the same laminar air flow technology to move the heat off a laptop’s skin. “We are licensing it to our customers so they can keep making thinner and thinner laptops,” Eden said.

Eden also talked a little bit about Calpella, the next-gen mobile platform that will mark Nehalem’s mobile debut in the second half of 2009. He confirmed that Calpella will include processors with integrated graphics cores, and he said mobile Nehalem chips will be able to disable cores to save power.

CNet explains: “For instance, three of the cores can be shut down to save power when the user is doing tasks that don’t require a lot of compute power. Then more cores can be turned on depending on the need.” Mooly said these changes happen on the fly, transparently to the operating system.

Comments closed
    • ludi
    • 12 years ago

    In retrospect, I think most of the posts here have missed the point. Cooling a thin laptop is not necessarily the problem; as long as the heat can be moved away from the heat-producing components, the laptop will live. However, if the surface of the laptop starts heading north of 115-25F or so, the user will be distinctly displeased.

    Intel seems to be suggesting that an extremely thin false bottom can be implemented with a continuous stream of laminar air flow between the internal shell and the external shell to prevent heat from radiating across that boundary. This is roughly the effect of a cool-to-the-touch bread toaster, except with forced air and a very thin boundary zone.

    In other words, it won’t matter if the laptop is running hot (within its design limits), the user won’t know the heat is there.

    • Mourmain
    • 12 years ago

    Hmm, they’re just using “laminar” as a marketing buzzword.
    Laminar flow is *bad* for cooling a surface. What you need is turbulent flow, which, as mattthemuppet said, is also usually easier to obtain.

    I’m sure they have an interesting idea in there, but “laminar” is just the word the marketing dudes voted as the coolest when the techies gave them the presentation.

      • no51
      • 12 years ago

      Because “turbulent” reminds them of bad things. Like turbulence in an airplane, or turbulent times. Sometimes I want to be in tech marketing; basically get knockered off your drug of choice, replace normal descriptors with buzzwords (instead of heatsink, call it a metallic based thermal transfer device) and get paid!

    • DrDillyBar
    • 12 years ago

    I spent 2 hours on Wikipedia after reading this article.
    Thanks TR.

    • mattthemuppet
    • 12 years ago

    eh? Laminar airflow is simply the opposite of turbulent airflow – ie it runs parallel to the surface its flowing over. Most fan produced airflow is by its nature turbulent, which has the advantage of reducing boundary layer effects (where the air closest to the surface moves the slowest) you get with laminar airflow.

    Now if they’re talking a separate skin like UberGerbil posited (ie. box within a box), fine, but that’s got sod all to do with laminar flow. Given that most people interested in laminar flow work on aerodynamics (planes mostly, where laminar flow separation = stall) and how cluttered the inside of laptops are, this sounds like a whole load of bull.

    • sativa
    • 12 years ago

    when he says the cores turn off and on “transparently to the operating system” i don’t think he really understands how operating systems work. clearly they have to have built-in support for this kind of hardware behavior.

      • Forge
      • 12 years ago

      No, they don’t. In fact, as Intel is planning on doing it, it’s transparent to the OS. Other CPU designs have done it in the past.

      Basically, there are lots of tricks you can use to do it as described. When you’re the one making the CPU itself, it’s fairly trivial to implement.

      Besides, if the OS needed to explicitly support every feature of the CPU, you’d need a CPU driver floppy for the OS every time a new model came out. It’s abstracted for precisely that reason.

        • bhtooefr
        • 12 years ago

        For that matter, I recall discussion of that feature all the way back with Yonah, and recall screenshots of CPU-Z running on Yonah engineering samples showing the first core running at 800MHz, and the second running at 0MHz, in a SpeedStep situation.

        • DrDillyBar
        • 12 years ago

        well put

    • danazar
    • 12 years ago

    Wait wait wait. Processors with integrated graphics cores? Coming NEXT YEAR from Intel? What the %#&$!

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      I~I~I~I am the ghost of Timmmmmm-naaa past!

    • ssidbroadcast
    • 12 years ago

    Reply Failure!!!

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      Failure!!!

      Wish granted.

    • The Dark One
    • 12 years ago

    If less heat is leaking through the case, then it’ll be even hotter by the air vents.

    Maybe the solution is to pump it through the keyboard and call it a feature modeled after those luxury cars with pre-heated steering wheels. 😉

    • UberGerbil
    • 12 years ago

    Hmm, is “Large Scruffy Men in Berets” the category, Alex?

    The only way this works is if the laminar flow is occurring /[

      • Shining Arcanine
      • 12 years ago

      Have fun closing the screen.

        • UberGerbil
        • 12 years ago

        No, that’s a solved problem, and it doesn’t involve bending.

      • ludi
      • 12 years ago

      Heatpipes no bendy. I expect that getting the heat to cross the hinge boundary would be the biggest challenge.

        • UberGerbil
        • 12 years ago

        Actually, there’s an easy solution for that.

          • ssidbroadcast
          • 12 years ago

          Really?? Do tell.

            • tfp
            • 12 years ago

            If he told you he would have to kill you.

            Those are the breaks.

            • ludi
            • 12 years ago

            Pssst…fluid-filled hinges. But you didn’t hear that from /[

            • tfp
            • 12 years ago

            SShhhhhh…..

            • DrDillyBar
            • 12 years ago

            Or just make the hinges out of Copper.

            • ludi
            • 12 years ago

            As I see it, the problem is the hinge junctions. They have to rotate freely, and on small and/or lightweight notebooks they generally can’t occupy the entire rear side without compromising battery space, which means can’t be made as long and as tight as would be optimal for heat transfer (whether copper or aluminum).

      • ClickClick5
      • 12 years ago

      Heat…”tubes”! YES! Not pipes…tubes!

      Some kinda carbon tube tech could work… idk.

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