Boffins have developed an efficient air-cooling system based on the human lung.
Heat is the latest, and perhaps most daunting, technological hurdle facing the consumer electronics market, particularly when it comes to mobile computing. Upgrading a smartphone processor is pointless if the end product erupts into flames half-way through a session of Angry Birds. Current heat-distribution methods – heat sinks, fans, liquid cooling, etc – perform adequately on current-scale PCs, but they’re struggling to keep up with the shrinking scale of mobile tech. Researchers at General Electronics have come up with an interesting alternative; A solid-state cooling system based on the human lung.
The prototype cooler involves two 40mm by 40mm thin metal plates bonded to strips of piezoelectric ceramic. These ceramics, dubbed Dual Piezoelectric Cooling Jets, flex when an AC current is applied, causing the whole cooler to continuously push a 1mm-wide jet of air in and out of itself. It may look kind of creepy, like a fish gasping for air, but the prototype cooler is smaller, quieter and nearly two times more energy efficient than a traditional fan. The frequency of the unit’s “breaths” can also be adjusted on the fly – you can add your own “heavy breathing” joke.
Of course, computer components don’t operate in a vacuum, as any PC enthusiast who has ever gazed into their parent’s ancient Dell with a look of abject horror on their face can tell you. Run a PC long enough and its insides begin to resemble that of a dust-flavoured candy floss machine. To test the cooler, GE blasted it with fine grain dust from multiple angles. The cooler was still running perfectly four days later. Apparently, the air velocity of the jets keeps the unit clean.
While this tech could come in very handy in the notebook market, GE is leaving the real-world applications to another company; It’s licensed the system to Japanese thermal solutions outfit, Fujikura.