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Kronos cooling run at 8.5kilo-volts to cool a device 25 degrees Celsius - Image courtesy
Kronos Advanced Technologies claims that's the way we're headed

Lately, heatsinks and traditional fans have become so large that they are beginning to be obstructive and are sometimes too heavy. This is an issue on the graphics processor front in many ways, as there isn't enough room for large heatsinks, yet GPU thermal exceeds that of high-speed CPUs.

A company called Kronos Advanced Technologies is working on a method of removing heat from devices such as CPUs by using ionic discharge to create a fluid motion of air. This technology has been around for a few years and is used in products such as ionic air filters, which have no moving parts but still move volumes of air and create quite a strong breeze. The same concept is being applied to micro processor cooling.

Despite the advancement however, the volume of air moved over the CPU core is still small because the core surface area is small. Heatsinks are used to increase surface area of the hot surface, so that when air is moved over the fins, more heat can transfer to the air. The Kronos' device will attempt to remove hot air away from the processor core directly without the need for heatsinks. With this method, the velocity of air being moved needs to be extremely fast in order to compensate for the lack of surface area -- and speed is something that ionic air "movers" lack.

Right now, Kronos is still working on prototypes, which it claims are scalable from very small micro coolers to large scale sizes. Power requirements also appear to be quite steep at this point in time. One of Kronos' demonstration shows a heated area being reduced from roughly 50C to 25C using an ionic cooler, but the power supply required around 8.5kV, or 8500 volts, to stay stable.

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Pros and cons of ion cooling
By Guigsy on 1/5/2007 7:31:39 AM , Rating: 2
As mentioned, InventGeek show you how to make a home-made ionic fan for a few dollars ( ), but it doesn't look very safe or healthy.

With a normal heatsink, there is a 'skin' of air that's stuck to the surface of the heatsink. The closer you get to the surface, the slower the air moves. The more pins, dimples and fins you add, the worse this effect becomes. The heatsink conducts the heat into this skin of air, which then conducts it further from the heatsink until it reaches the wind-blast of your nice big fan you've got strapped to the top. This skin of air is very thin, only a few mm, but it insulates your CPU very nicely.

Ion cooling works by charging up the heatsink so much that the electrons literally jump off of it into this skin of air. This electrically charged (ionized) air is then repelled by the heatsink. This removes the skin effect and drastically increases the effectiveness of a heatsink, and without any moving parts, so it's very quiet.

The negative is that you've got a high voltage inside your PC that could hurt you. The voltage can also fry chips very quickly. Also, many people think ionized air is bad. Maybe Dell will produce a case with security bolts on the outside and switches to prevent you from switching it on when it's open? I can't see a solution an enthusiast's market any time soon.

RE: Pros and cons of ion cooling
By masher2 on 1/5/2007 7:43:30 AM , Rating: 2
> "With a normal heatsink, there is a 'skin' of air that's stuck to the surface of the heatsink. The closer you get to the surface, the slower the air moves. The more pins, dimples and fins you add, the worse this effect becomes..."

Very true..which is why this ionic cooler, if coupled with an ordinary heatsink/fan combo, could potentially offer superior cooling with less noise and airflow. As a standalone solution, though, I'm considerably more pessimistic.

RE: Pros and cons of ion cooling
By mindless1 on 1/5/2007 9:26:21 AM , Rating: 2
You've succeeded in learning a basic principle then misinterpreting the extent of the effect.

No it does not extend several mm, and no the effect is not "worse". It is greater but not worse, the difference is the larger surface area of the 'sink.

Further your idea ignores the temperature gradient between 'sink surface and surrounding air. That ALONE makes the skin concept of minimal effect, that skin is constantly expanding air (which is then less dense) rising away, and if it did not then it and the surrounding air would also have a similar thermal gradient to whatever extent it did not (rise away). If we weren't talking about a heatsink it would be more significant.

That doesn't mean we wouldn't see a bit of an improvement by increasing the velocity of the air across the heatsink surface, but it's not such a primary focus that it's worth isolated consideration.

RE: Pros and cons of ion cooling
By Guigsy on 1/5/2007 3:31:26 PM , Rating: 2
What I meant was that as you add more and more bits to the heatsink, the air stagnates more and more. Once you get close to the heatsink, the air isn't turbulent anymore. This thin lamina of air relies on convection to pull the heat away the sink before it moves into the turbulent layer where it's churned up with cooler air and hopefully moved away. Ionised air on the otherhand breaks away immediately and picks up speed and moves away from the heatsink. It is more efficient.

RE: Pros and cons of ion cooling
By mindless1 on 1/6/2007 3:56:08 AM , Rating: 2
The air does not "stagnate more". The bits necessarily do one of two things (both actuall). Create more turbulence in the vicinity of the 'sink and increase air velocity.

Skin effect should be seen as just an observation, not something used to make heatsink decisions regarding "bits" on heatsink.

Ionised air is not necessarily "more efficent", because you have now more parts to the cooling subsystem, which can't be ignored any moreso than a better (hunk of metal) heatsink itself would be, and you are only assuming their ionized air stream could do the job as of yet the article and picture show a die that would fry because only a tiny spot has a temp reduction.

If you want to only consider efficiency in one aspect of heat transfer, yes it could help, but so could many things that are ignored for practical reasons.

There are lots of novel concepts that aren't actually reasonable. Put a tiny peltier assembly BEFORE the fan intake to cool the air some - taken in a similar vague interpretation we can say cooler intake air is better, as ionized air stream is better. In reality, the diminishing return of having a mini peltier AC outweigh the benefits of either removing it, or putting the TEC directly on the core instead of the air barrier.

RE: Pros and cons of ion cooling
By masher2 on 1/6/2007 4:47:01 AM , Rating: 3
> "The air does not "stagnate more"..."

Actually he's correct, though his language is a bit vague. Adding surface area to a heat sink in the form of "additional bits" does indeed impede airflow, and can reach a point of diminishing returns. Allow me to quote from A numerical study of the thermal performance of an impingement heat sink:

The addition of the surface area for heat dissipation with the help of heat sinks, however, is not directly proportional to the enhancement of heat transfer. On the contrary, in some cases, it might result in a degraded performance... the optimum design, [the removal] of fin material lowers the pressure drop and allows better [air] penetration...
> "Ionised air is not necessarily "more efficent"..."

Not "necessarily", of course. Just like "a heatsink" isn't necessarily better than none at all. The point of all this, though, is that this solution is potentially more efficient...especially when coupled with traditional forced-air cooling.

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