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MSI ECOlution Chipset Cooler  (Source: TweakTown)
MSI ECOlution chipset cooler operates on the Stirling Engine Theory

MSI has designed a new chipset cooling fan that is able to operate without electricity. MSI’s new chipset cooler, which is accordingly dubbed the “Air Power Cooler,” offers all of the benefits of a cooler with a fan without drawing any power.   

Energy efficiency of fans can make a large difference, especially in enterprise environments where hundreds of PCs are running at once.  Although passive cooling is always an option, it doesn’t offer the cooling capability of a fan.

The new MSI cooler isn’t a passive cooler but actually uses a fan to cool the chipset without using any electricity. Ironically, the fan gets its power from the very thing it’s trying to remove — thermal energy.

The system is based on a beta Stirling engine. As hot air expands in the system, it applies pressure to the central piston in the heatsink pushing it up. The piston's movement upwards rotates gears which in turn spin the fan. Thermal energy generated by the chipset is converted into kinetic energy.

The fan blows through a common looking finned radiator to disperse the Northbridge’s heat production.

MSI tells DailyTech that the system is able to convert 70% of heat power to kinetic energy. It is important to note that enough heat must be supplied to spin the fan blades. If the chipset isn’t hot enough, the entire system will not run.

MSI is working on the cooler with Taiwanese company Polo-Tech. The powerless fan is expected to make its debut on MSI’s ECOlution during CeBIT 2008.


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RE: Ingenius
By masher2 (blog) on 2/29/2008 11:46:46 PM , Rating: 1
And of course the mechanical energy is converted right back into heat in the operation of the fan -- the second law of thermodynamics.

I confess I don't see the benefit of this device. You trade the utter simplicity and reliability of a fan for a device with many more moving parts and thus a higher failure rate. All to save what? The 3/4 watt or so a fan draws? Possibly for an ultra-low power system...but if you're drawing that little power, you probably don't even need active cooling anyway.

Am I missing something here?


RE: Ingenius
By elpresidente2075 on 3/1/2008 1:28:56 AM , Rating: 5
Whatever happened to doing something just because it is awesome? A fully automated, active cooling system that requires no power, logic, or anything external to function is great.

Of course, you always have the right to not buy it...


RE: Ingenius
By StevoLincolnite on 3/1/2008 10:26:43 AM , Rating: 2
Extra Power saved in Laptops anyone? :)


RE: Ingenius
By cyyc009 on 3/1/2008 1:56:56 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly what I was thinking:) Man, I love MSI, everything they make it great. This product is destined to revolutionize the computer industry, if it can just be tweaked a little more (looks more like a prototype now).


RE: Ingenius
By Alexvrb on 3/1/2008 4:05:22 PM , Rating: 2
For a laptop? No. Too big, ambient temp (in the case) too hot, doesn't spin soon enough/fast enough.

Even for a desktop, this prototype is a cross between a cool pipedream and an oversized chipset cooler. Slap on high price, undetermined long-term reliability, and no fan-speed monitoring for good measure. (unless you want to use more electricity to externally monitor the fan :/)

Still, its a very cool concept. It just doesn't have any tangible benefits. It does make me wonder if it wouldn't be worth externally mounting a miniature girling engine and generator outside a case and routing heat via water. Pump-> waterblocks (cpu, gpu, etc)-> girling -> radiator-> reservior-> pump. Unfortunetely, once again logic kicks in and I don't think the temperature difference in the water would be significant enough (unless you're BAKING your components), and even if it was I don't think you could generate crap for electricity.


RE: Ingenius
By RjBass on 3/1/2008 8:27:41 PM , Rating: 1
Actually, your comment made me think of something one of my friends did. He was in the Heating and Cooling business and was a self proclaimed geek. He modded his case with an actual mini AC unit that pumped cold air into the case via the side panel fan hole. The only problems with the device that made it not very practical was the water it produced that had to be drained in some fashion and the fact that he needed a very high powered PSU to run it.

Aside from it's obvious drawbacks, it kept his system running very very cool. He had an overclocked Core 2 running with passive cooling. In fact the only fans he had running were the fan for the mini AC unit, the one on his graphics card and the two in his PSU.

The unit was also pretty ugly too.


RE: Ingenius
By xsilver on 3/2/2008 6:18:09 AM , Rating: 1
um if you're running an AC unit into your computer I think condensation is going to be another part of your troubles.

Also I dont think that running a core 2 passive is that much of an achievement. Im running a fanless core 2 (2.7ghz) now with a 8800gt passive as well. Only 1 92mm psu fan in my system.


RE: Ingenius
By RjBass on 3/2/2008 11:18:28 AM , Rating: 2
It was an overclocked Core 2. To get a Core 2 or any processor up on a good overclock you need good cooling. Typically passive cooling won't do the trick.

As for the condensation, he set up the AC so that the natural condensation that occurs with an AC unit drained outside of the PC. In fact the whole unit was attached to the outside of the PC case so that the inside of the case only received the cool air from the AC unit. It was a pretty remarkable mod except for the obvious problems I pointed out in the original post.


RE: Ingenius
By DragonMaster0 on 3/3/2008 7:33:55 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
um if you're running an AC unit into your computer I think condensation is going to be another part of your troubles.

Condensation happens on the coolest side (ie. not the parts)


RE: Ingenius
By AlphaVirus on 3/3/2008 12:26:04 PM , Rating: 2
I am in no heating and cooling but I tried something similar to him. I outfitted my computer with one of those "window fans". So depending on the temp in the house I could set it to 'Exhaust'(hot days) or 'Normal'(cold days) and it kept the computer cool at all times.

Like you said though, it is not very attractive. I was using 2, 8 inch fans, so you can imagine how tacky that looked.


RE: Ingenius
By masher2 (blog) on 3/1/2008 11:03:07 AM , Rating: 1
> "Whatever happened to doing something just because it is awesome?"

Sure, I agree totally. That's a great reason for an enthusiasist's PC.

But some people here are arguing this has applications for large datacenters. I don't see any corporation risking the integrity of their servers for an 'awesome' idea with no practical benefit.


RE: Ingenius
By Spartan Niner on 3/1/2008 2:10:24 PM , Rating: 5
>"Sure, I agree totally. That's a great reason for an enthusiasist's PC."

That's one hell of a enthusiastic enthusiast you have there. He even added another Si for the silicon used in his chips.


RE: Ingenius
By PlasmaBomb on 3/2/2008 8:30:06 AM , Rating: 2
DOH!


RE: Ingenius
By sporr on 3/2/2008 7:45:32 AM , Rating: 2
Im just hoping this solution is a starting point, a base of which to further their idea's.

At the very least, I credit MSI for at least trying.


RE: Ingenius
By elpresidente2075 on 3/3/2008 2:20:51 PM , Rating: 1
Certainly that makes sense. But you must remember that there must be a first generation that goes before the sleek, new, better 2nd generation, and so on. Honestly, I don't expect to see practical applications of this tech within the PC arena for many years.

Fun little niche product though. I'd probably put it in my personal server to replace the tiny POS that is attached to my northbridge. Funny though, the fan probably wouldn't ever turn on.


RE: Ingenius
By SoCalBoomer on 3/7/2008 1:02:40 PM , Rating: 2
Strangely, heat pipes were just for enthusiasts a while ago - the same people who are pooh-poohing advances like this pooh-poohed heat pipes in Shuttle's designs (and others) as impractical.

Yet here we are with heat-pipes everywhere (nearly).

I can see a smaller version of this (and there aren't many moving parts - diaphragm, arm, shaft, fan. . .hmmm) going many places.

Less power demands, temperature sensitive cooling.

We all know things get smaller as development continues. . . this could easily advance and become really practical.


RE: Ingenius
By ziggo on 3/1/2008 1:37:19 AM , Rating: 3
That absolutely all powerful "because we can" reason.

I like it, its not like Stirling engines are incredibly complex, I don't know the specifics of how they are doing it here, but similar engines are used in applications where very high reliability is paramount.


RE: Ingenius
By Hare on 3/1/2008 1:09:22 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Am I missing something here?

I don't think so. Let's be honest. First of all an axial fan (as small as that one) can't really create any pressure at all. In the picture there's a big gap between the heatsink and the fan. There's no way that fan can really move air through that heatsink without ridiculous rpm (and noise).

I also wonder, why not just skip the fan entirely and make a big passive heatsink? I doubt cost would be an issue because a passive heatsink definately should cost less than a design such as this.

I have an Intel P965 chipset and it stays quite cool with a really small passive heatsink (fsb much higher than stock). Triple the surface area and there's no problem even with power hungry chipsets.

I personally think this is a nice technology demo but the practical use for something like this...


RE: Ingenius
By Hare on 3/1/2008 1:24:01 PM , Rating: 2
Btw. I wonder how difficult/expensive it would be to use a stirling engine in a modern car. I know that Stirling engines don't scale well to high output but why not make a diesel hybrid car which would also use a stirling engine to provide additional power and increase efficiency? Diesel engines waste plenty of energy (though not as much as gasoline engines) through the exhaust which could be harnessed with a stirling engine.

Someone kindly tell me why this is not feasible?


RE: Ingenius
By masher2 (blog) on 3/1/2008 1:38:58 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, NASA did a lot of research in putting Stirling engines in cars. The basic problem is such engines have difficulty varying their power level while still remaining efficient. Quite obviously, driving a car in city traffic has an enormous range in power demand, which makes the engine very inefficient (or horribly complex, to compensate).

A Stirling engine might be a good fit in a serial hybrid, as the engine can be tuned to run at one specific power output only.


RE: Ingenius
By Hare on 3/1/2008 2:00:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The basic problem is such engines have difficulty varying their power level while still remaining efficient.

Ok (I also checked Wikipedia and read about NASA). The reason why I said diesel hybrid was that maybe a Stirling engine could be used to charge batteries?

It would be quite difficult to use a stirling engine as the main power source (like you said) but maybe a Stirling engine could be used as a secondary engine as I said above? I believe NASA mainly researched Stirling engines as main power source? Philips researched Stirling engines between 1930-1970 but the battery technology back than was pretty poor. Nowadays the same old ideas might work better.


RE: Ingenius
By Alexvrb on 3/2/2008 10:56:39 AM , Rating: 2
It wouldn't be *that* bad an idea for a secondary engine, maybe. But it actually might work better in a non-serial hybrid where the gas engine is still coupled to the wheels through the trans+axle, as it would still be running most of the time. In a serial hybrid like the Volt, it wouldn't run the engine nearly as often in typical usage (especially since it has decent plug-in range).

Even when the Volt engine IS running, its not propelling the vehicle, and it is basically an efficient turbocharged generator. So a Stirling engine would add unneccessary weight and cost and add little benefit.


RE: Ingenius
By Nockeln on 3/3/2008 9:25:57 AM , Rating: 2
Just as a comparison, Swedish submarines are powered by Stirling engines when running in submerged conditions (Gotland Class).
So to say that Stirling engines are unreliable I take with a grain of salt since reliability is of the utmost importance in submarines.


RE: Ingenius
By HVAC on 3/3/2008 10:12:00 AM , Rating: 2
The reliability of the Stirling engine is predicate on the particular design approach and materials used.

However, it is much improved from the internal combustion engine in that the piston(s) do not have to contact burning fuel, preventing formation of "sludge" from the engine oil.


RE: Ingenius
By walk2k on 3/2/2008 12:27:11 PM , Rating: 2
Not to mention, it blows all the heat right onto the RAM chips!! Doh! All they had to do was turn it ther way way too. Epic fail.


RE: Ingenius
By phorensic on 3/3/2008 10:35:22 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
I don't think so. Let's be honest. First of all an axial fan (as small as that one) can't really create any pressure at all. In the picture there's a big gap between the heatsink and the fan. There's no way that fan can really move air through that heatsink without ridiculous rpm (and noise).


My thoughts exactly. That gap is horrible, there should be some sort of shroud. What happened to making it efficient in regards to a shroud??


RE: Ingenius
By DASQ on 3/2/2008 3:39:33 AM , Rating: 2
In theory, it's the most efficient type of fan and heatsink based cooling; entirely self-regulated, calibrated to match a specific heat output, and requires no external power source other than the work it's doing (the work it's getting, more properly).

Efficient, but not best. The fan will fail. Heatsink contact and heat transfer will suffer and reduce over time, reducing the efficiency of the fan itself.

I see it as neat-o, but I'd rather just have more of the gigantic heatsinks we've been seeing as a trend of motherboards. I love to cool things as best and efficiently as I can, even if the component is running perfectly fine.


RE: Ingenius
By mattclary on 3/2/2008 12:16:04 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
And of course the mechanical energy is converted right back into heat in the operation of the fan -- the second law of thermodynamics.


I know little of physics, I will admit, but you are converting heat to mechanical energy. It is NOT a given that friction from the bearings in the fan will produce as much heat as is used to move the fan.


RE: Ingenius
By DASQ on 3/2/2008 1:10:27 PM , Rating: 2
He never said it would produce as much heat. The fact that heat is produce in itself means efficiency of the fan is reduced.


RE: Ingenius
By masher2 (blog) on 3/2/2008 4:42:57 PM , Rating: 2
> "but you are converting heat to mechanical energy. It is NOT a given that friction from the bearings in the fan will produce as much heat as is used to move the fan. "

The heat from the fan bearings plus the heat generated from the motion of the air itself will exactly equal the energy used to power the fan. Inescapable.

Now, if you arrange the fan where the airflow winds up outside the case (sans the pressure created by other fans), then some of that eventual reconversion will happen outside. But most unducted cpu fans don't do this...they just create a little in-the-case turbulence, which the actual case fans move outside.


RE: Ingenius
By mattclary on 3/2/2008 9:23:34 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
the heat generated from the motion of the air itself will exactly equal the energy used to power the fan. Inescapable.


I don't think that is right, but like I said, not so big on the physics. You have converted heat to mechanical energy. That mechanical energy may have the same net ENERGY as the heat (minus inefficiency) but it will not have the same HEAT as was removed. Kinetic energy <> heat


RE: Ingenius
By MozeeToby on 3/4/2008 4:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
If there were no friction on the fan, it would speed up indefinatly.

When running at maximum speed, the energy input is exactly equal to the friction/drag acting on the fan. The friction generates heat, the drag generate wind turbulence, which will eventually settle because of friction between the air molecules, which also generates heat. The Heat out when the fan comes to a stop will equal the energy in, just spread out throughout the case because of the turbulence.

Heat == Energy, energy cannot be created or destroyed. When the fan stops accellerating, there is no increase in the mechanical energy. Therefore, the energy in much be released as heat.


RE: Ingenius
By mattclary on 3/2/2008 9:46:22 PM , Rating: 2
To elaborate on that a bit... The air moved by the fan can do work, it can blow dust around, or possibly cause movement in another fan. If all that heat energy was just converted back to heat, there would be no energy to move that second fan's blades or blow the dust around.


RE: Ingenius
By JustTom on 3/3/2008 1:35:43 PM , Rating: 2
In a properly designed cooling system the heat will be moved from the heat source for the external fans to dump. This unit will move the heat from the chipset, cooling the chipset. It is the job of the case fans to dump the heat out of the case.

Does anyone know the power draw of a chipset cooler? Is using something like this even reasonable or is it just another lower power fad product?


RE: Ingenius
By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 3/3/2008 12:34:14 PM , Rating: 2
Let's see, over 1B PC's in use in the world as of June 2007, times .75 watts, is, um, lessee, hmmmm, nope, no savings there, Bomar.

Also, there is nominal heat generated from friction, which is part of the 70% the engine converts. The 30% that is not converted is the heat the system must cool passively.


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