CPU air cooler has not changed a great deal over the years and it hardly progressed from the trusty old chunk of metal with fins and a fan on top disbursing the heat. We’ve recently seen manufacturers move to an all in one watercool design which uses a waterblock, pump and radiator to cool the heat source (i.e. CPU). It also requires a fan to cool metal fins in the radiator and there is some need for maintenance to remove dust from the fins which makes the design less effective as dust settles in the fins. Dust is a bit of a gripe of mine with most cooler designs these days and it would be nice to see an alternative that does away with it.
Researchers at Sandia National Laboratories have been working on a different type of design which is really interesting. It’s based on an impeller design and does away with fans as it spins the metal finned heatsinks itself and generates some sort of an air vortex which is forced air into the middle of the cooler and then through those metal fins thanks to some clever design. These guys have used computational fluid dynamics to optimise the design. It elevates the finned heatsink as it spins at 2000rpm according to the researchers which basically will do away with any noise.
There are a lot of questions to be answered here which I’m sure a lot of us “cooling enthusiasts” are thinking of. Some that come to mind personally are what sort of heat is it able to cool effectively. Modern extreme OC CPUs have thermal ratings of up to 150W but they are usually heavily overclocked hence pushing the heat to twice the rated or even more. How much additional heat will it be able to cool before it reaches its max, 200W, 300W or more? I’m also thinking would it help using copper instead of what appears to be aluminium or some alloy they are using to improve efficiency. I wonder what they mean by the statement “it’s 30-times more efficient than conventional air-cooled heat exchangers”. Does that mean it’s just more efficient at getting rid of dead/static air or it has ability to draw a lot more heat out. The way he started talking about the cooler makes me think they are optimising it for up to 150W power source which isn't very interesting at all but who knows maybe I’m reading too much into it. The most important aspect of a cooler for enthusiasts at least is the how well it works at thermal transfer rather than improving airflow which is what this seems to be doing.
The video itself does show a noisy brushless motor (without a cover however!) running this cooler but they claim it will be inaudible once design has been finalised and the motor has a cover. I’m thinking why not show that off as that’s the major improvement and difference to the current coolers. Another thing I was wondering is does it have to sit horizontal to work properly or can it be placed vertically as well. It would be impractical and probably dangerous if it’s just levitating freely in horizontal position. I’m wondering how quickly it draws the heat away from the heat source as well considering that you only have a solid piece of metal sitting on the CPU while the top heatsink provides airflow. I wonder if the bottom part of the cooler that contains the motor would require a better design to manage larger heat loads.
It’s an interesting design but unless some of the above questions get a favourable answer and someone actually gets their hands on a prototype to test it’s just a bunch of vaporware. It’s interesting vaporware for the moment at least, check out the video itself .