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Hardware

Sandia's Floating, Dust-Free, Spinning Heatsink 307

Posted by samzenpus
from the cooler-cool dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Sandia Research Laboratory believes it has come up with a much more efficient solution than heatsink-fan cooling a CPU that simply combines the heatsink and fan components into a single unit. What you effectively get is a spinning heatsink. The new design is called the Sandia Cooler. It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor. Sandia claim this setup is extremely efficient at drawing heat away from the chip, in the order of 30x more efficient than your typical heatsink-fan setup. The Sandia Cooler works by using a hydrodynamic air bearing. What that means is when it spins up the cooler actually becomes self supporting and floats above the chip (hence the thousandth of an inch clearance). Cool air is drawn down the center of the cooler and then ejected at the edges of the fins taking the heat with it. And as the whole unit spins, you aren't going to get dust build up (ever)."
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Sandia's Floating, Dust-Free, Spinning Heatsink

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor

    What could possibly go wrong? Seems like a pretty tight tolerance with all the vibration that could occur in a server room.

    • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:10PM (#40441543)
      You must be a hard drive hater.
    • by edibobb (113989)
      And my PC will have dust plugging that .001 inch.
    • by ackthpt (218170) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:38PM (#40441969) Homepage Journal

      It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor

      What could possibly go wrong? Seems like a pretty tight tolerance with all the vibration that could occur in a server room.

      Read up a little on the science of Hard Disc Drives - heads usually rode on air, just above the platter surface. Same effect could be employed here.

    • by sjames (1099)

      Why would it be a problem? The cooler consists of the spinning part resting on a heat spreader plate (it floats just off of the plate when spinning). The plate sits on a standard thermal transfer pad which sits on the CPU. Where are you seeing a problem that every other cpu fan in the known universe doesn't have?

    • by beelsebob (529313)

      Actually, it relies on the same aero effects that hard disks do to float their drive head above the disk, so it's pretty well known stuff.

  • Contrarian thinking (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dtmos (447842) * on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:02PM (#40441393)

    I'm reminded of the rotary engine [wikipedia.org], used in some WWI aircraft. The crankshaft was stationary -- attached to the plane's firewall -- and the entire engine block, including the cylinders, rotated around it. (The propeller was attached to the engine block.) In this way, no flywheel was necessary (the block was its own flywheel), saving weight, and the engine was cooled naturally, by the air flow over the moving cylinders. I don't know how the engines were balanced.

    In a similar manner, the Sandia Cooler moves the heatsink through the air, rather than the air through the heatsink. It's solving a different problem, but I've always been fond of contrarian thinking like this.

    • The stator (the stationary part) of a DC brushless motor found in a typical case fan is the shaft in the center, while the outside (the rotor) part spins the hub of the fan. Not unlike those old aircraft engines.

    • by 140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:24PM (#40441781) Journal
      The main idea was not to save the flywheel weight, but to cool the engine when the aircraft is not moving. These air cooled engines have fins on the engine block to radiate the heat away. At flight speeds at high altitude cooling is not an issue. But sitting on the runway, idling, these engine blocks would melt. So they decided to spin the cylinders instead of the crank shaft.

      But such a heavy rotating mass makes for very unusual handling. When a small force is applied to a spinning disk in one direction a very large reaction happens in the mutually perpendicular third direction. Some fighter pilots would use it to make very very tight left turns, (or a right turn depending on the spin). Sometimes they would use two banks of cylinders counter rotating. Or two engines counter rotating to balance the angular momentum.

      • by Lumpy (12016)

        so the air coming from the giant fan mounted in front of it was not enough to cool it?

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:35PM (#40441923)

      Why not keep the fans still and instead rotate the cpu ? Spinning the whole computer at 2000 rpm would also help with ventilation...

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:03PM (#40441411)

    http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/07/12/1348243/the-fanless-spinning-heatsink

    Can we get some new editors??

    • Yeah, also, TFA actually includes a publication date: 9/29/2011 . But hey, at least it isn't the "What's The Best way for me to store my Baby Pictures for 10,000 years" AskSlashdot again...
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The first one was the article. This one's the ad.

  • dust (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Shotgun (30919) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:03PM (#40441415)

    But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

    • Re:dust (Score:4, Interesting)

      by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:34PM (#40441913)

      But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

      Your blades also have hundreds of millimeters of clearance between them, not fractions of a millimeter. As well, dust requires an electric charge to stick to something... plastic has a very large static charge that 'grabs' the dust... use a different material and the charge is neutral. Problem solved.

      • by rrohbeck (944847)

        As well, dust requires an electric charge to stick to something...

        Or tar, i.e. smoke.

    • Re:dust (Score:4, Informative)

      by adisakp (705706) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:42PM (#40442011) Journal

      But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

      If you watch the video, one of the heatsink's designers specifically says that when the device is spinning quickly (at 2,000 RPM), any dust particles that land on the device get flung off by centrifugal force.

      • by DeTech (2589785)
        Exactly this is why my metal house fan doesn't have dust on it... wait, it does, and it spins @ 1.75 kRPM.
      • The centrifugal force is counteracted by the fact they're SUCKING AIR IN. Think about it really really hard... If the centrifugal forces keep dust out... why don't they keep the air out? Furthermore, air friction generates LIGHTNING. Well, on a small scale like this, it only generates static electricity. As with any new innovation, say the Microsoft Surface or the Knifork, don't believe it until you can buy it.

        I just invented a machine that generates infinite energy! ::tosses a rock into the air::

    • Dust wont collect when spinning because the "blades" of the heatsink are oriented such that when they spin the layer of airflow that would normally form over them does not "separate" from the surface of the blades. This means the air on the blade is moving too quickly for the dust to get a good hold. I suspect this claim may be slight hyperbole, since dust will still build up on the blades immediately after it stops spinning, which will then diminish the separation layer effect and thus allow dust to start
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:04PM (#40441425)

    Given the possibility of dynamic movement of a laptop during its use, will the Sandia Cooler work inside of a laptop?

  • by ThunderBird89 (1293256) <zalanmeggyesi@CO ... m minus caffeine> on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:07PM (#40441495)

    Maybe I just didn't get the message, but what draws heat away from the die itself? This setup probably does away with thermal paste and similar junctions...

    The other thing is that hydrodynamic bearings are only self-supporting and quasi-frictionless after a threshold RPM is reached. Before the whole setup is spinning fast enough for hydrodynamic effects to take over, it's going to grind against the chip die, and unless they came up with something good, it's going to destroy it on startup...

    • by kylegordon (159137) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:27PM (#40441815) Homepage

      Maybe I just didn't get the message, but what draws heat away from the die itself? This setup probably does away with thermal paste and similar junctions...

      From the video... there's a normal heatsink, and the fan draws the heat from the heatsink through the air bearing.

      The other thing is that hydrodynamic bearings are only self-supporting and quasi-frictionless after a threshold RPM is reached. Before the whole setup is spinning fast enough for hydrodynamic effects to take over, it's going to grind against the chip die, and unless they came up with something good, it's going to destroy it on startup...

      It's Sandia... I'm sure they've thought of that.

      • Yes but the whole point of a heat sink and the reason it works is that heat effortlessly travels up through the specially developed paste/glue and then the metal. It is basically part of it. I do not see how an air bearing could have the needed approximately 0 insulation. To work you need a great heat transforming material to be in contact with the entire chip and at no point have a choke point for this heat.
        And air is a great insulator, and by definition an air bearing has a layer of air insulating

    • by sjames (1099)

      Commonly there's a conventional bearing that disengages once the aerodynamic effects take over (that is, the spinning part lifts off of the bearing).

    • Maybe I just didn't get the message, but what draws heat away from the die itself? This setup probably does away with thermal paste and similar junctions...

      The other thing is that hydrodynamic bearings are only self-supporting and quasi-frictionless after a threshold RPM is reached. Before the whole setup is spinning fast enough for hydrodynamic effects to take over, it's going to grind against the chip die, and unless they came up with something good, it's going to destroy it on startup...

      Take a look at the presentation on the parent site: https://ip.sandia.gov/techpdfs/Sandia%20Cooler%20presentation.pdf [sandia.gov]

      There's an underside view of the mechanism, itself. As others have said, it's a spinning heatsink on top of a baseplate, and the presentation includes a visual the thermal interface between plate & die. I imagine arctic silver isn't going anywhere. The airgap is between the spinning heatsink and the baseplate (also well-illustrated in the presentation).

  • That's right boys and girls. Start lapping those CPUs to a mirror finish. Lap lap lap...

  • As a former thermal lab technician for a server manufacturer, I'm very skeptical...
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If your working fluid is moving fast enough, it stops mattering how conductive it is. The Reynolds number starts to dominate all the heat transfer coefficients. The problem with cooling is always the boundary layer, where the fluid stagnates and acts as an insulator. Sandia's found a way to minimize the boundary layer by shrinking the gap between heatsink and fan. Props to them.

  • 2000RPM? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by sdguero (1112795) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:32PM (#40441885)
    According to the .pdf linked on the press article, it spins at 5,000 RPM.

    Spinning a heat sink that weighs several ounces take a much more powerful motor than a plastic fan. I'd expect it's a to harder on the bearings (i.e. less reliable), and requires a lot more power than a traditional heatsink/fan setup.
  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Monday June 25, 2012 @01:38PM (#40441965)

    My CPU normally runs around 140 degrees so at 30x more cooling I should be well into the -4000F range!

  • Just for the record, the research facility where this work was done is "Sandia National Laboratory", not "Sandia Research Laboratory". Sandia is a research facility funded by the US Department of Energy. Your tax dollars at work (if you pay US taxes).
  • as the whole unit spins, you aren't going to get dust build up (ever).

    That seems like a strange comment, since I get dust build-up on faster spinning (and even larger) fan blades, I also have doubts about the heat transfer across an air gap, no silver thermal compound here.

    • by wiedzmin (1269816)
      Oh, no the dust will instead build up in the thousandth of an inch gap between the spinny part and the CPU :) Completely different set of problems than what you're used to dealing with! Have fun cleaning that out :)
  • What happens if the computer shakes or vibrates? Is it going to collide with the CPU at any point?

  • by Lumpy (12016) on Monday June 25, 2012 @02:07PM (#40442333) Homepage

    Dear researchers, please notice how dust will cake and adhere to spinning things. Ask the airline industry how dust can cake on even turbine blades.

    It's not dust free, please take the marketing people out back and beat them with a sack of doorknobs.

  • The article sounds like a summary of a patent application. I wonder if this thing actually exists and more importantly, works and if it works does it work well?

  • by Osgeld (1900440)

    Patented in 08, article in 11, and 2 slashdot articles and what do we have ... jack shit nothing, its vaporware making outrageous claims and a pretty silly idea to boot. Besides why would you want to listen to a large chunk of metal spinning at 2000 RPM? The thing is full of hard edges, which cuts though the air, which produces .... (wait for it)

    MORE NOISE

    ugh

  • Reminds me of an article that was was put on explaining this revolutionary technology where by current was applied to a wafer, making one side cold and the other hot, a remarkable achievement for cpu cooling. Peltier's having been around for ages of course.

    I used to do a lot of system building and modding for fun years ago. However OC has gone mainstream and as such has become a bit pointless. With the mainstream and Intel/AMD being well aware of that fact, they price pretty accordingly. Also modern manufac

  • He says it's "dustless" because it's spinning so fast the dust just gets "flung off" LOL
    That thing would get gummed up, off balance, and fail to work in about a week at my house.
  • I'd rather have IBM's fluid micro channels going through my next Intel or AMD CPU.

  • by Nyder (754090) on Monday June 25, 2012 @03:42PM (#40444041) Journal

    My fans spin pretty fucking fast, and yet, they have dust on them (and cat hair, got to love the cat hair).

    Let's go for a real world test. Put the heat sink in my computer, and let's see what happens.

  • by KonoWatakushi (910213) on Monday June 25, 2012 @06:55PM (#40446727)

    See The fanless heatsink: Silent, dust-immune, and almost ready for prime time [extremetech.com], and an interview with the inventor [extremetech.com].

    Disbelief of the dust-immune property of this cooler is addressed in the first question of the interview:

    Jeff Koplow: I did not mean to imply that there is literally no dust fouling; some dust accumulation eventually becomes visible to the naked eye on the very leading edge of the blades. The point is that dust fouling is reduced to such a large extent that we are unable to detect any degradation of cooling performance operating the device in a relatively dirty environment over an extended period of time. Thus for all intents and purposes the dust fouling problem has been taken off the table. In contrast, with conventional CPU coolers, eventually the entire heat exchanger surface becomes entombed in dust. I suppose there are some applications in which computers are operated in extremely dusty environments that might be too much for the heat-sink-impeller. This is common sense. In trying to figure out a way around the longstanding problem of CPU cooler dust fouling, I was thinking in terms of residential and commercial environments where the vast majority of PCs are found.

    Once again, it is disappointing how many people so yearn for the status quo, when presented with clearly superior technologies. Not that they always pan out, but it is disheartening to see such hostility toward progress.

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