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Hardware Hacking Hardware

How to Cool Your PC with Dry Ice 265

Ant writes "This Madshrimps article is a complete guide to working with dry ice so you can reach sub-zero temperatures with your CPU and graphics card. Details on building containers, where to buy dry ice and important tips and tricks. (Seen on Blue's News.)"
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How to Cool Your PC with Dry Ice

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  • WHY?! (Score:5, Informative)

    by gotpaint32 ( 728082 ) * on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:44AM (#12476131) Journal
    That device looks unweildy and is undoubtedly exceeding the max weight limit intel or amd would want you to use for a heat sink. Quite frankly i don't see the point of a computer that requires you to fill it daily in order to run it. Overclocking should only go so far, they have some nice professional compressor based solutions that should be able to achieve similar performance without the hassle of purchasing dry ice on a regular basis. One I know is called vapochill. Dry ice with no load is around -75 C whereas the vapochill should be around -45 C id=565&cid=9 []

    And if you were to go the dry ice route, since AFAIK dry ice isnt conductive, why don't they just build the entire computer into an icebox (not the hard drive), and put a regular passive heat sink on the processor rather than construct that monstrosity of plumbing. I would think the overclocked memory and chipset would benefit equally as well. Oh and of course throw in some sacks of silica gel in there, don't want to have condensation now.:]
    • Re:WHY?! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Gar0s ( 323445 )
      Cheesy disco effect MP3 Box - dry ice and some pink neon - now you're talkin'
    • Why?

      And you call yourself a nerd...
      • Re:WHY?! (Score:2, Funny)

        by newrisejohn ( 517586 )

        I know, the adage is that geeks do it, "because they can."

        But geeks (new geeks, high school age, not those hard core, old school, i-remember-the-altair types) I think are also inherently lazy and with summer coming, they also sleep late (because they can). Imagine sleeping through your computer's feeding time to find your GPU in a puddle at the bottom of the case.

    • Re:WHY?! (Score:2, Informative)

      Why? Hack value [].
    • Re:WHY?! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by mattmentecky ( 799199 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:54AM (#12476202)
      When has a hack or a weird project like this ever rendered a logical concise answer to the question "Why?" other than "Just because" or "To see if it could be done"?
      • Re:WHY?! (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Moofie ( 22272 )
        Because practical solutions to problems interest me. Silly, not-practical stuff like this does not.

        Do what you want to. I think experimentation fine. Get back to me when it's usable.
    • "Overclocking should only go so far"

      you lose
    • This kind of post really irks me, because the answer to the OP's "WHY!" question is pretty simple.

      Overclocking is about pulling fun little tricks to make your box do stuff that it wasn't intended to do. Usually, it's also a way to tweak a little more performance out of a non-production, home gaming system without spending money on a CPU or video card upgrade.

      The point of the dry ice project is that it's simple and it gets the job done on the cheap. You COULD spend a shitload of money on one of those Vap
  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by TheRealMindChild ( 743925 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:44AM (#12476132) Homepage Journal
    ...what would happen if these class of people would be better off putting this kind of effort into getting laid
  • by Boogiesbunny ( 881293 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:51AM (#12476175)
    WOW....I just increased my processor from 2.2ghz to 2.3ghz.
    • If you are like me and you're rendering 3D animations, it's largely all about clock speed. So if you can OC a 3.2 to 3.5 than you save about 10% of time on renders. For a render that would normally take 10 days, you've saved yourself an entire day of waiting.
  • What's next? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by c0ldfusi0n ( 736058 ) <admin@c0l d f u s i 0> on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:52AM (#12476179) Homepage
    After liquid metal [] and liquid nitrogen [], here comes dry ice! What's next?
    • by dan dan the dna man ( 461768 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:59AM (#12476235) Homepage Journal
      Hot air?
    • vegetable oil []
    • by garcia ( 6573 ) * on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:04AM (#12476274)
      Death from incorrectly transporting/storing dry ice and having it slowly suffocate them while they sit for hours playing some silly video game.
      • I've driven around on camping trips and stuff with a chillybin full of dry ice to keep our frozen foods frozen on long trips. Yeah, I suppose it could be dangerous, but it's not that dangerous. I've also used it for sepcial effects on stage productions - bucket of hot water, bucket of dry ice and a fan pointing to the stage - simple but effective.

        Here's a fun game - next time your wife/girlfriend is doing the dishes, drop a glovefull of dry ice in the sink. Foams up nicely :-)

        Don't keep the chillybin full
    • Ummm, liquid paper?
    • Liquid Helium. At 4 degrees kelvan. It does more then allow you to over clock it it becomes superconductive. To bad the stuff is very expensive. Frozen Gold.
    • 3rd degree burns and a skin graft most likely.
    • Re:What's next? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by psmurf ( 808573 )
      I wonder if people realize that chips are actually spec'ed with a lower thermal limit as well as an upper??? I can just imagine these chips starting to crack in half with this kind of obsessiveness...
    • environmental chilling... fire the PC into space, then use a very long KVM cable-set. What's even radder is that the KVM doubles as a space elevator!
    • Upside-down compressed air can - like the one you clean your keyboard with. DANG that stuff is cold!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 09, 2005 @08:55AM (#12476212)
    You can achieve a temperature of less than -100 F just using a big stack of (LARGE) thermoelectric coolers. With TECs, you can keep your CPU that cool 24/7 without using up dry ice!! The hot end of the stack generates an incredible amount of heat though -- A large fan is needed to dissipate the heat from the monsterous heat sink. Your computer could be used as a space heater in the winter!
    • Sorry, but the cells will generate enough heat themselves, that no fan would be able to remove it all. Actually, in stack of 4-5 cells, the but-last (before the one sticking to the cooler) would likely explode, boiling. One, well adjusted thermoelectric cell, with really good cooling (water, really big fan) can be useful and actually decrease the CPU power. Adding the second one will already produce more heat than any commonly available solution (fans, water cooling) can remove. Maybe dry ice could remove t
      • Use one as the base.
        Use two in the second layer.
        Use 4 in the third layer.
        On top of that place a large heatsink and massave fan or a watter cooling system hooked up to a large heatsink and fan.

        As long as you use thermoelectric rated for the operating temperature each layer is going to sit at you can stack them like this and get to vary low operating temperatures.

        PS: It would be more effecent to use the inner loop of an AC unit instead of a few layers of thermoelectric cell's.
  • Why not just refrigerate the case instead? You can overclock your 3 ghz machine to 3.04 ghz and keep your brewskis cold at the same time!
  • by SloWave ( 52801 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:01AM (#12476251) Journal

    "Increase Your Horsepower and Get Chicks by Installing Giant Aluminum Wing, Fart Can Muffler, and Car Stereo Manufacturer Emblem on your Four Door Front Wheel Drive Honda Civic".
  • by Sandbox Conspiracy ( 836255 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:01AM (#12476252)
    At least you don't have to get the stuff from Lybian terrorists. Great Scott!
  • by Vo0k ( 760020 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:06AM (#12476285) Journal
    Sure, more dangerous. But probably more handy to build and could last longer. Valve set to slow dripping, pipe outlets (possibly with some spraying tips) over the radiators, possibly even electric valve with some temperature feedback loop - temperature rising, pour more, temperature dropping too much, cut off. 1 liter is something like 6 cents in bulk, so it should last quite long. Sure pouring a bucket of liquid nitrogen over a PC won't do much good, but you should be able to release it as slowly as you only desire, so...?
    • Actually, it should be less dangerous. Not only won't it be toxic like CO2, it's not as dangerous to touch because it boils and loses contact with what it is cooling. This is also why it's not such a great liquid coolant for computer use.
      • Dry Ice is not that dangerous if you usea little bit of common sense. Heck, the local supermarkets around here in Florida carry it. The average Floridian is an idiot so if they can handle dry ice, so can't most anyone.
    • It's been done so many times []. (Though the first one [] is still the best)
  • cheaper and easier (Score:3, Interesting)

    by CdXiminez ( 807199 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:06AM (#12476287)
    I have been puzzled by x86 users' preoccupation with heat for quite some time.

    Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and easier to just use a processor that doesn't get so friggin' hot? Like a PowerPC or Crusoe...

    • by Slashcrap ( 869349 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:59AM (#12476788)
      Wouldn't it be a lot cheaper and easier to just use a processor that doesn't get so friggin' hot? Like a PowerPC or Crusoe...

      Not really. An overclocked Crusoe would still be slow as shit. And as for the PowerPC, I can just imagine the scenario :

      Ricer1: Yay! The Liquid Nitrogen cooler has got my G5 down to -180C! Time to start cranking up the multiplier!

      Ricer2: Apple haven't provided a way to increase the multiplier.

      Ricer1: Well never mind, just crank up the bus speed!

      Ricer2: Apple haven't provided a way to increase the bus speed.

      Ricer1: Shit. The condensation's just nuked my CPU. Oh well, better order another one.

      Ricer2: Apple won't let you order a new CPU.

      Yes, I can see that catching on in a hurry.
    • by Pandion ( 179894 )
      Maybe you didn't notice this on the apple site:

      "The Power Mac G5's enclosure houses four discrete thermal zones to compartmentalize the primary heat-producing components. Fans in the zones spin at very low speeds, creating an environment that minimizes distraction. Dual 2.7GHz systems also include an innovative closed-loop liquid cooling system that draws away heat quietly and efficiently."

      yeah those PowerPC's, so cheap and cool...
  • On the plus side, this device hardly seems like something that could be mass-produced profitably. On the minus side, the dangers of dry ice, the border-line exorbitant cost of maintenance, and what appears to be a customized fit to the PC at hand (i.e.: it doesn't look like they could take that monster out and put it into another PC) makes me wonder what the point of this is. And I think I know exactly ;)
  • Use A Solvent (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zeromemory ( 742402 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:11AM (#12476325) Homepage
    Placing granular dry-ice into a copper container next to your CPU/GPU isn't going to result in very efficient heat transfer. If you're really going to try this, I recommend floating the dry ice in some sort of organic solvent (don't try water, as it'll freeze) and setting up some sort of agitator system.

    An even better setup would be to setup a water-cooling-like system, with dry ice in a container filled with solvent above the system. The solvent would be fed into a heat exchanger on top of the CPU/GPU. No pump would be necessary, because, as the solvent in the heat exchanger heats up, it'll float up to the top, where it'll be cooled down again by the dry ice.

    In any case, the costs of such a system would probably outweigh any benefit of using it.
    • You need a pump. Even with a very wide pipe, the temperature difference between the two ends of your system is not going to be enough, and the bottom will perpetually overheat.

      Better put, use of a pump will reduce the temperature difference required between the cold end and the hot end, which reduces energy/dry ice requirements.
    • I work in a chemistry lab. We use dry ice/acetone and dry ice/isopropanol baths all the time. Dry ice is dirt cheap too. The best way to do this whole thing would probably be to run the isopropanol through an insulated container full of dry ice in a way similar to a regular liquid-cooling system.

  • I needed dry ice for a demo at work and in searching around I found out that the Kroger grocery store chain (at least in the Richmond, Va area) sells dry ice! They have a super-insulated freezer at the front of the store, and sell it by the pound.

  • by dawnread ( 851254 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:15AM (#12476361)
    Check out what this guy did to his head with dry ice!

    Link []

    And how he did it...

    Link []

  • CO2 build up? (Score:3, Informative)

    by mlush ( 620447 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:16AM (#12476373)

    I'd certainally not use this in a confined space! A Cooling system that can make you feel crap and sleepy? No thanks!

  • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @09:27AM (#12476481) Homepage
    The best part is the fog that will come out of your computer... it'll look real cool with all your blue lights shining through it, and *yawn* why am I getting so sleepy?
  • In basement apartments all over the US and Canada, a rare breed of computer users called "overclockers" have been found dead in troublesome numbers. The cause of death appears to be lack of oxygen, although there are never signs of struggle.

    The only thing the crime scenes have in common is each victim is found next to a burned-out computer and an empty styrofoam cooler.
  • Now these "ladykillers" are going to have to pack their router and network cables in dry ice.
  • by snorklewacker ( 836663 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @10:36AM (#12477185)
    ... like How to Cool your PC with Bose-Einstein Condensate just so we finally get to the ultimate extreme end of things and never have to see another stupid cooling story again?

    Can we just get a category for "cases and cooling"? Crust almighty...
    • Frankly, I'm surprised all those guys on the International Space Station haven't tried mounting their processors on the exterior hull...
      • Frankly, I'm surprised all those guys on the International Space Station haven't tried mounting their processors on the exterior hull...

        Why? There'd be nowhere for the heat to go, save a minimal amount via radiation. (Plus they'd be subject to radiation and micrometeorioid damage)

        Putting things in cold places to cool them off only works well where there's an atmosphere to actually carry away the heat.

        Heating and cooling are both really obnoxious problems in space.

    • "How to Cool your PC with Bose-Einstein Condensate"

      How fast do electrons go at a few thousandths of a degree over 0 K? Better overclock that sucker.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @10:44AM (#12477288) Homepage
    First, dry ice attracts the wet kind, freezing moisure right out of the air. This will melt if it ever gets warm and you will have water in unexpected places. Worse if you still have some CO2 being weathered off, because then it will form carbonic acid, a dilute but fairly corrosive acid.

    Rime from water and other substances is a major problem in cryo work. So is heat transfer. We normally use acetone or isopropyl alcohol in vacumm trap cold bath dewars to improve heat transfer.

    • Completely right: I expect dry ice to cause lots of trouble, including the ones you mentioned (though condensation may be overcome by covering everything with grease like in the article). Also the _large_ difference in temperature could be dangerous, as it may cause cracks in the die of your CPU. Besides: why do you need it to be _that_ cool? There is a difference between sinking a lot of heat (useful in PCs) and making stuff _really_ cold (useful in satellite receivers). I would welcome a robust and prefe
  • by hal2814 ( 725639 ) on Monday May 09, 2005 @11:32AM (#12477769)
    What isn't dry ice good for? -Creating a skating rink in your dorm. -Cutting coins for the coffee machine. -Cooling a laser capable of popping a houseful of popcorn from miles away. Now you can add cooling your computer to that list!

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"