Cooling off hot processors

Researchers at Purdue University are developing a miniature refrigeration system that can be used to cool the insides of laptop PCs.

High-performance processors tend to generate more heat, which has been notoriously difficult to disperse in smaller devices. As a result, manufacturers have tended to use low-power ' and slower performing ' processors in laptops and other portable devices that can't accommodate the large fans and heat sinks used in desktop PCs.

Purdue researchers are pursuing a different strategy. They are working on miniature compressors and evaporators to create tiny refrigerators. The compressors pump refrigerants using penny-sized diaphragms, which are made of ultrathin sheets of a plastic called polyimide and coated with an electrically conducting metallic layer. The metal layer allows the diaphragm to be moved back and forth to produce a pumping action using electrical charges.

"We feel we have a very good handle on this technology now, but there still are difficulties in implementing it in practical applications," said Suresh Garimella, director of the Cooling Technologies Research Center at Purdue. "One challenge is that it's difficult to make a compressor really small that runs efficiently and reliably."

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.

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