Print 18 comment(s) - last by Khato.. on Dec 13 at 2:03 PM

Fanless solution is only 4 mm tall

Component makers have toyed with novel cooler designs like solid-state fans and Stirling engines, but such designs have thus far not been widely adopted in the mobile space.  As a result there's a major tradeoff between form factors and processing power.  

While battery life is one aspect that forces mobile devices to adopt less powerful CPUs, another major issue is that fan-based coolers are too bulky to be useful, but passive coolers/heat spreaders are only able to suck up a little bit of excess heat.  Apple, Inc. (AAPL) and other PC manufacturers have at times suffered overheating issues with their laptops and tablets.

General Electric Comp. (GE) believes it's come up to a novel solution to the competition between cooling, power, and form factor, unveiling a cooler based on jet-engine technology that both is compact and uses precious little power.

The new technology is titled Dual Piezoelectric Cooling Jets (DCJ) and appears to be a more advanced version of the aforementioned solid-state fans, employing "micro-fluidic bellows that provide high-velocity jets of air to cool electronic components."

GE claims the new device is simple to manufacture, and has no moving parts, making it less failure prone than traditional fans.  It's a mere 4 millimeters tall -- 50 percent slimmer than traditional fans -- and consumes less than half the power of a traditional fan with comparable airflow.

Piezoelectric cooler
GE's piezoelectric cooler is slender and low power.

Peter de Bock, lead Electronics Cooling Researcher at GE Global Research claims the technology is primed for use in designs like ultrabooks, hybrid laptops, and tablets, commenting, "DCJ was developed as an innovative way to dramatically reduce the amount of pressure losses and loading characteristics in aircraft engines and power generation in gas and wind turbines.  Over the past 18 months we have addressed many challenges adapting this technology in areas of acoustics, vibration, and power consumption such that the DCJ can now be considered as an optimal cooling solution for ultra-thin consumer electronics products."

Chris Giovanniello, VP Microelectronics & Thermal Business Development at GE Licensing concurs, adding, "With new tablet and netbook roadmaps moving to platforms measuring less than 6mm high, it is clear that consumers are demanding thinner and more powerful electronic devices.  GE’s patented DCJ technology not only frees up precious space for system designers, but it consumes significantly less power, allowing as much as 30 minutes of extra battery life. Best of all, DCJ can be made so quiet that users won’t even know it’s running."

The new solid-state cooler sounds intriguing, but it remains to be seen if OEMs will bite.  GE thinks they will and is pushing forward with commercialization, shopping the technology around to OEMs for use in 2013 or 2014 devices.

Source: GE

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By Khato on 12/12/2012 4:30:37 PM , Rating: 2
Now if only there'd be an equal breakthrough in battery technology the thermal dissipation of everything from smartphones up could see a decent bump. Without that however I'm not certain I see much use for such in a smartphone - a small version could be used to provide a small amount of airflow through the device when overheating though. Tablets are likely to see much more benefit as again, all it'd take is a small version to provide some airflow in order to solve thermal issues and keep it merely warm to the touch. Not to mention it's then feasible to use higher TDP products that have the performance users want without impacting the form factor. Well, so long as said higher TDP products are comparable on idle power, since otherwise battery life would take too much of a hit.

Then the big unquestionable application for such a device is with laptops. Where cooling has long been an annoyance due to either being noisy or letting surface temperatures get too high. If this actually lives up to the promises it'd be a marked improvement for all laptops... and best of all it might have better air pressure characteristics than current fans.

RE: Awesome
By FITCamaro on 12/12/2012 4:59:49 PM , Rating: 3
Apple so desperately needs this in their MacBook Pros its not even funny. This thing gets so freakin hot its ridiculous.

RE: Awesome
By ritualm on 12/12/2012 6:02:46 PM , Rating: 2
Both the older MBPs and current MBAs have cooling silts along its display hinge, which in turn is directly above its keyboard, so it already doesn't have a lot of surface area for adequate cooling. But you know Apple will never sell a laptop if it cannot make it look sexy and high-end in the first place.

Apple's response to all these hoopla: You're cooling it wrong.

RE: Awesome
By Guspaz on 12/12/2012 7:18:36 PM , Rating: 2
The current MBA doesn't seem to suffer from any cooling issues. Mine never gets particularly hot. But then, it's a ULV with a cooling fan and a completely metal chassis as a heatsink. Some vendors get away with fanless ULV products, so it's not surprising that it doesn't have cooling issues.

I can't comment on their higher-power notebooks, however. They may have cooling issues, for all I know. All I can say conclusively is that the current MBA does not.

RE: Awesome
By Moonwave on 12/12/12, Rating: 0
RE: Awesome
By AnnihilatorX on 12/12/2012 6:54:16 PM , Rating: 4
I am not sure mate. It is not just a Peltier cooler as this technology also claims to move jets of air.

It also claim to use very little power, while traditional Peltier cooler uses a lot and as you say, dump the extra energy input as excessive heat on the hot side.

With a low energy usage, Peltier heat pump and movement of air however, you get a package which can efficiently removes heat from places where heat is unwelcome---processor, MOSFET, PWM, etc.

RE: Awesome
By Moonwave on 12/12/12, Rating: -1
RE: Awesome
By Moonwave on 12/12/2012 7:04:39 PM , Rating: 2
Might have spoken too quickly indeed. I hope the micro-fluildic air jets are cooling enough the device...

RE: Awesome
By Khato on 12/13/2012 2:03:08 PM , Rating: 4
It's quite unfortunate that a link wasn't included in the article to the video demonstration included in the GE press release -

It's not really a high airflow device, but according to said video they actually replaced the fan in a lenovo ultrabook with it to no ill effect. Have to remember that laptops typically, especially ultrabooks, don't have very high airflow requirements, but they can still be noisy due to the small size and hence high speed of the fan - axial fans just don't do well in such cramped quarters.

RE: Awesome
By deathmx on 12/13/2012 10:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
piezo creates vibrations from electricity. The single speaker in your PC case is a piezo. It can also create electricity from vibrations.

Peltier is thermal electric. Which turns electricity into heat and cold. Which the peltier is also able to turn heat and cold into electricity.

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