Ionic Coolers for Notebooks on the Anvil
Researchers at the University of Washington have reportedly developed a cooler for notebooks that is based on ionic cooling technology. According to a report by MIT Review, the technology can keep a laptop 30% cooler than a traditional fan.
Ionic cooling is a new technology where in charged particles are used to move air. This removes the need for a fan or any other moving parts. Alexander Mamishev, a researcher at the University of Washington studied the possibility of using this technology to cool notebooks and developed a prototype ionic-cooler.
This technology was then licensed by a company named Tessera, who joined hands with the university researchers to take the project forward. The current aim of the research is to develop a cooler that is small enough to fit inside electronic devices such as notebooks, game consoles, projectors, and servers.
According to the researchers, ionic-cooling can drain about 30% more heat from a laptop than a traditional fan based cooler. Moreover, an ionic-cooling device would require only about 50% of the total power consumed by a fan. The combination would have a direct effect of significantly boosting the battery life of a laptop or notebook.
Talking about their work, Ken Horner, director of research and development for Tessera said, “The early work focused on principles. We’re now focused on optimizing it and fitting it into small form factors.”
The biggest challenge faced by the researchers was the fact that the ionic-cooling system requires around 3,000 volts to run. In addition to being small in size, the cooler had to be able to generate this power from the 12v DC power supply that is available in notebooks.
The current cooler developed and being tested by Tessera consists of a pair of electrodes – an emitter and a collector, that start exchanging ions soon as electricity starts flowing through them. Neutral air molecules in the vicinity are charged by these ions, creating a hot spot for air flow. The cooler fits near a vent inside the laptop and has heat pipes that drain the heat from the systems components and divert it towards the ionic-cooling system.
To overcome the high power supply requirement, Tessera’s engineers have developed a 3 centimeters square power supply from the power components of a cold cathode fluorescent lamp. Pilot runs have turned up excellent results and the researchers have found laptops remaining 30% cooler than with traditional fans.
However, before the technology can be commercialised, the boffins have to clear two more hurdles – those of dust and lifespan. Current fans are literally dust proof, but the electrodes are not. If the ionic cooler has to become a reality, it must be made more impervious to dust.
Alongside this, the researchers will also have to develop new electrode materials that will give the cooler a lifespan of 30,000 hours, same as those of notebooks. According to the MIT Review report, these materials have already been developed, but details have not been revealed due to pending patents.
With new technologies that increase the overall speed of a system expected to come into the market, the scope and need for better cooling methods is also increasing. At such a time, something like the ionic cooler can turn out to be a winner. With the technology expected to go into commercial production next year, the only factor that now needs consideration is the cost of the technology.
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