Next-generation heatsink has no fan at all

Researchers from Sandia National Laboratories have created what they describe as “a radically new architecture for air-cooled heat exchangers”, incredibly efficient compared to the traditional fan+heatsink setup, quiet and even immune to dust.

Sandia Cooler achieved such a feat with a quite simple design where the metal heatsink itself is the fan: “heat is efficiently transferred from a stationary base plate to a rotating (counterclockwise) structure that combines the functionality of cooling fins with a centrifugal impeller”, Sandia Labs official site explains, while the cooler is powered by a “brushless” motor in the middle of the device.



The new cooler is 30 times more efficient than a traditional setup, Sandia Labs researchers state, 10 times smaller compared to a high-end commercial unit available nowadays but with the same cooling performance. Furthermore Sandia Cooler is immune to dust layering because it spin at a constant 2000 RPM speed, while the centrifugal forces constantly push the dust particles out of the device.

Among the potential applications for its cooler, Sandia Labs – a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin Corporation and two major research and development laboratories belonging to the United States Department of Energy – list laptop and “high performance ‘gaming’ PCs”, gaming consoles, LED lightning, automotive, “other” electronic devices and “any device comprising one or more forced-air exchangers”.

The market debut of Sandia Cooler should happen soon, too: the researchers say that two yet-to-be-named companies – one working in the computer cooling business and the other one in the LED lighting business – have already licensed their promising technology.

Source: Sandia Labs press release

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Another added benefit from this idea is that if it's so open, the entire PC would have more air moving around, not just that one component.

Mr Spoon said,
Strange as UK science suggests there is no such thing as Centripetal forces, even though it's the same as centrifugal but going the opposite way:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centripetal_force


I highly doubt UK Science suggests there is no such thing as Centripetal forces considering it is the force that is heavily relied on in making nuclear weapons and medical equipment around the world.

Furthermore Sandia Cooler is immune to dust layering because it spin at a constant 2000 RPM speed, while the centrifugal forces constantly push the dust particles out of the device.

or from the Neowin linked page at sandia.gov:

Additionally, high-speed rotation completely eliminates the problem of heat exchanger fouling.

In a clean room environ maybe, but real-world that's Bull -- otherwise fan blades wouldn't get *Fouled*, to use Sandia's word for dirty. In their design heat is transferred from the base plate to the fins over an extremely small air gap -- it's similar to the way the read/write heads on a hard drive float above the platters [their comparison]. But hard drive internals are not open to the outside air. The Sandia PDF talks about a self regulating air gap of ~0.02 mm -- wouldn't take much buildup before the gap between the metal surfaces themselves starts increasing, cutting heat transfer efficiency.

Costs are likely to be higher than traditional cooling because of higher precision machining between the base & impeller, plus you have to balance the impeller [vs. for example stamping/cutting individual fins from thin sheets of metal], plus you have the higher costs of not using an off-the-shelf fan.

Maybe it'll work... maybe somebody will actually bring something to market & then we'll see. But reading [skimming] the PDF, seems to me an engineer with no practical experience with CPU cooling came up with a theory that seems it might work on a lab bench, & then dove full-on into marketing his brilliance.

mikiem said,

...

I'm guessing the added immunity comes from it being metal instead of plastic. Metal is much smoother and would allow dust to "slip off" while spinning. Plastic is rarely that smooth and would build up crap faster since it has something to grip.

ILikeTobacco said,
...

That gives me an idea... I will try and taking apart a fan and using a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the fans was well as cut off some of the unneeded support structure on the edges to open it up a bit. Will leave it running for about a week straight and see if there is a difference in dust build up.

ILikeTobacco said,

That gives me an idea... I will try and taking apart a fan and using a fine grit sandpaper to smooth out the fans was well as cut off some of the unneeded support structure on the edges to open it up a bit. Will leave it running for about a week straight and see if there is a difference in dust build up.

I think you`ll have to get it really really smooth, i watched a documentory about TeflonĀ® surfaces and how if the surface is glass smooth it wouldn`t stick but it only needed slight pits or ridges (viewable under a microscope) to grip to and all was well.
Good luck with it, be nice to find out how it goes

ILikeTobacco said,

I'm guessing the added immunity comes from it being metal instead of plastic. Metal is much smoother and would allow dust to "slip off" while spinning. Plastic is rarely that smooth and would build up crap faster since it has something to grip.

Fans were made of metal for decades before they started making them out of plastic. I can assure you dust can and does stick to them.

TRC said,

Fans were made of metal for decades before they started making them out of plastic. I can assure you dust can and does stick to them.

Difference is size and speed. My ceiling fan, for instance, has dust only stick to the leading edge of it because it is a few millimeters thick. My computer fans however have dust stick to them evenly across the surface and build up mostly on the stationary edges. The plastic on those fans is fairly cheap and not as smooth as it can be and the edges are largely unneeded if I can replace the support beams with something a bit more sturdy like a metal strip. This would improve airflow and allow the dust to escape the fans housing more easily.

Also, your statement in general is not true. The propellers I use to fly RC airplanes show this. The propellers I use that are chrome for looks don't even need to be wiped down after a few flights. The thicker plastic ones do just from the dust that it is in the air(gotta love Oklahoma for this one ).

Something else worth noting is that thanks to the laws of motion, being a heavier spinning object means once the heatsink gets up to speed, it should take less energy to keep it moving than a plastic fan. Less energy to keep the fan moving means that motor itself won't generate any extra heat.

ILikeTobacco said,
The propellers I use to fly RC airplanes show this. The propellers I use that are chrome for looks don't even need to be wiped down after a few flights. The thicker plastic ones do just from the dust that it is in the air(gotta love Oklahoma for this one ).

Certainly plastic attracts dust more than metal, but unless your RC plane is flying for months at a time I'm not sure that's a valid comparison to a case fan. I was thinking of the old style fans from the 30s and 40s that had thin steel blades. They were very smooth but would still build up a layer of dust after a few months.

TRC said,

Certainly plastic attracts dust more than metal, but unless your RC plane is flying for months at a time I'm not sure that's a valid comparison to a case fan. I was thinking of the old style fans from the 30s and 40s that had thin steel blades. They were very smooth but would still build up a layer of dust after a few months.

I am talking about after 4 or 5 hours of flying. My computers are on longer than that so if it scales down the same, there should be some improvement which is what I am going for. Any improvement would be nice.

Nikos_GR said,
This article is about "next generation heat sink that has no fan at all". Yet it does have one! My compliments to the writer!!!

Breaking news: This is Neowin

Nikos_GR said,
This article is about "next generation heat sink that has no fan at all". Yet it does have one! My compliments to the writer!!!
Except it doesn't. Please point to the fan without pointing to the heat sink. If you can't do it, you understand the difference.

ILikeTobacco said,
Except it doesn't. Please point to the fan without pointing to the heat sink. If you can't do it, you understand the difference.

See the part that spins and moves air? That is called a fan. It doesn't matter if it is also a heat sink.

TRC said,

See the part that spins and moves air? That is called a fan. It doesn't matter if it is also a heat sink.

It does matter that is is also a heat sink because that's the whole point. The cooling component doesn't require a heat sink AND fan because it is one device, not two.

Dust accumulates on normal fans even though they are spinning, centrifugal force isn't enough to keep it from sticking and eventually building up. Why is this different again? I'm interested in seeing some independent reviews, this article seems like a load of marketing to me.

With all those eggheads there, why didnt they bother to balance it?

That things wobblier than a Glasgow drunk

LiquidCrystalMeth said,
With all those eggheads there, why didnt they bother to balance it?

That things wobblier than a Glasgow drunk

Because its in testing, not production.

In terms of safety, let's say you're troubleshooting(of course the unit cover is open exposing the insides), isn't it quite dangerous to turn on your PC with that metal thing spinning @2000rpm? Like getting your fingers grinded like a crayon.. )

Neliel said,
In terms of safety, let's say you're troubleshooting(of course the unit cover is open exposing the insides), isn't it quite dangerous to turn on your PC with that metal thing spinning @2000rpm? Like getting your fingers grinded like a crayon.. )

Look at the re-curve and the direction of the rotation. I suppose if you stick your finger in the center part you could get "bit".

No dust sold me on it. There is so much dust where I live. It gets pretty bad, even with sealed doors and windows, I have to clean my walls every once in awhile.

I stopped reading when I saw "Lockheed Martin" ... a maker of deadly weapons. Such a shame
that an innovative new heatsink should come from a company that profits in war and death.

DJGM said,
I stopped reading when I saw "Lockheed Martin" ... a maker of deadly weapons. Such a shame
that an innovative new heatsink should come from a company that profits in war and death.

You realize that most technology advancements come from military related companies?

DJGM said,
I stopped reading when I saw "Lockheed Martin" ... a maker of deadly weapons. Such a shame
that an innovative new heatsink should come from a company that profits in war and death.

Chances of finding Lockheed Martin working on a useful and human life improving (instead of life threatening) project.....

Dont you know theres more money in killing people than saving them.

LiquidCrystalMeth said,

Chances of finding Lockheed Martin working on a useful and human life improving (instead of life threatening) project.....

Really now? I think guys like GSK and Pfizer might have a thing or two to say about that.
Dont you know theres more money in killing people than saving them.

LiquidCrystalMeth said,

Chances of finding Lockheed Martin working on a useful and human life improving (instead of life threatening) project.....

Dont you know theres more money in killing people than saving them.

Then obviously you know diddly about Lockheed Martin.

While Lockheed Martin is best known for defense contracts, they have several other contracts related to IT (including healthcare IT, such as hospital IT - they have a contract with MedStar Health, for example), and they are one of two companies that helped Intel develop the Intel740 (and successor Intel752) discrete graphics chipset back in the early days of AGP (the other being Chips and Technologies). (Film fact - Stark Industries of the Iron Man movies is, in fact, based on Lockheed Martin - which is based in Bethesda, MD.)

DJGM said,
I stopped reading when I saw "Lockheed Martin" ... a maker of deadly weapons. Such a shame
that an innovative new heatsink should come from a company that profits in war and death.

as a Lockheed employee, I can tell you we do a LOT more than just weapons...don't be so closed minded.

SirEvan said,

as a Lockheed employee, I can tell you we do a LOT more than just weapons...don't be so closed minded.


Yeah they save their own people. Doesn't matter that they're killing the rest of the world.

SirEvan said,

as a Lockheed employee, I can tell you we do a LOT more than just weapons...don't be so closed minded.


I think his post isn't exactly about Lockheed's "ratio" or "good and evil".

GS:mac

Astra.Xtreme said,
It's technically still a fan. Cool idea though.
Not saying it isn't a fan. They are saying it doesn't need a fan and a heat sink, just the heat sink, which happens to be a fan.

"Sandia Cooler achieved such a feat with a quite simple design where the metal heatsink itself is the fan"

Great advancement , there needs to be more focus on reducing the power consumption of CPU and GPU which will also reduce heat generated. This will help the environment and our pocket

DrakeN2k said,
Great advancement , there needs to be more focus on reducing the power consumption of CPU and GPU which will also reduce heat generated. This will help the environment and our pocket

exactly... it seems like over these past few years the power consumption for those high end cards is getting a bit out of hand to where it drinks a ton of power even at a idle. plus the size of them is getting damn huge to.

but CPU power consumption is pretty good compared to GPU's as you can get a pretty high end CPU and it don't use that much power especially the Intel i3-i5-i7 line of CPU's which give you a lot of performance without drinking a ton of power unlike higher end GPU's.

DrakeN2k said,
Great advancement , there needs to be more focus on reducing the power consumption of CPU and GPU which will also reduce heat generated. This will help the environment and our pocket

Politely disagree on the advancement part, but when it comes to heat & power consumption there's an awful lot being done, & quite a lot of improvement with CPUs in that respect since the days of the Pentium 4. With electronics you'll never eliminate all of the wasted energy that escapes as heat, but smaller chip sizes have helped a Lot & tech to basically turn off what you're not using has made huge strides.

With graphics it's about lower heat & lower energy consumption, or power -- pick one. You want efficiency go for a CPU with graphics built-in -- you want horsepower go for high end graphics cards -- you want some sort of compromise check out Virtu. The choice -- as well as blame re: energy consumption -- is yours.

Flash said,
Does it work vertically? They have only shown it in horizontal configurations

Im thinking this might benefit stationary computers, but the rotational inertia of it is probably pretty high and it wouldn't like being tilted during operation.
Working vertically seems like it adds a radial load to the bearing and kind of negates the air bearing design so it may be less quiet due to the radial load, efficient, and kill the bearing quicker, but would probably still work mostly the same.

Im still not sure how the air bearing would work for heat transfer though since it seems to rely on convection and radiation to transfer the heat vs conduction (Thermal paste).

BoyBoppins said,

Im thinking this might benefit stationary computers, but the rotational inertia of it is probably pretty high and it wouldn't like being tilted during operation.
Working vertically seems like it adds a radial load to the bearing and kind of negates the air bearing design so it may be less quiet due to the radial load, efficient, and kill the bearing quicker, but would probably still work mostly the same.

Im still not sure how the air bearing would work for heat transfer though since it seems to rely on convection and radiation to transfer the heat vs conduction (Thermal paste).

I was wondering the same thing, while it would have a sort of gyroscopic effect once it goes, as well as a consistently rounded expulsion of air/force, it is bound to want to shift on its axis.

That looks badass! I have my computer water cooled, fortunately (performance) and unfortunately (I want that cool looking fan!).

warwagon said,
I want one!

I already freak out when i accidentally touch my heatsink's fan, and thats plastic. I can only imagine what it would feel like touching this thing, with the plastic fans it just scares me into thinking i just got shocked or something but it doesnt actually hurt, this thing if its metal it could actually do some damage.

Also, i could just stop sticking my hand inside my case while its on.

So it seems quite noisy with the motor on. When they switch off the motor, it's impressively quiet but won't it stop spinning shortly after?

I am Reid said,

Also, i could just stop sticking my hand inside my case while its on.

You need to be careful sticking your hands in things when the`re "on". It can get very messy indeed

Mark said,
So it seems quite noisy with the motor on. When they switch off the motor, it's impressively quiet but won't it stop spinning shortly after?

Even with a video, it shows how peple don't pay attention. Th emotor in the demo doesn't have the spund damper installed. The guy shut it off so you can see how it would sound.

PAY ATTENTION!!!

TechieXP said,

Even with a video, it shows how peple don't pay attention. Th emotor in the demo doesn't have the spund damper installed. The guy shut it off so you can see how it would sound.
PAY ATTENTION!!!

Fine but, turning off the motor vs having a motor with a sound damper is different, thus not a true representation of what it might be like with one. Also, I am not a motor expert, so I wouldn't know if a motor with a sound damper would be silent. Sorry for not being an expert on motors, yet being a computer enthusiast at the same time.

Btw, I watched this on my phone while someone was watching tv so, although I managed to catch most of what was being said, I didn't get every little detail. So so sorry again.

I am Reid said,

I already freak out when i accidentally touch my heatsink's fan, and thats plastic. I can only imagine what it would feel like touching this thing, with the plastic fans it just scares me into thinking i just got shocked or something but it doesnt actually hurt, this thing if its metal it could actually do some damage.

Also, i could just stop sticking my hand inside my case while its on.


I suppose they could include some sort of cage, if the bars were thin enough it probably wouldn't change the airflow too much. Wouldn't solve all my problems though, I've got long hair...

I am Reid said,

I already freak out when i accidentally touch my heatsink's fan, and thats plastic. I can only imagine what it would feel like touching this thing, with the plastic fans it just scares me into thinking i just got shocked or something but it doesnt actually hurt, this thing if its metal it could actually do some damage.

Also, i could just stop sticking my hand inside my case while its on.

I think it would be very messy indeed. I can imagine 911 being busy when this hits the market.

911 Operator: 911 what is your emergency
Caller: Hello, I have had an accident with my PC and I need an ambulance ASAP
911 Operator: What kind of accident sir, have you any life threating injuries
Caller: Yes I have severed four fingers on my right hand, quick I'm bleeding
911 Operator: Calm down sir help is on it's way...
Caller: I knew I shouldn't have bought that new heatsink cooler for my PC
911 Operator: Sir keep calm help is on its way they are less than 7 minutes away

I am Reid said,

I already freak out when i accidentally touch my heatsink's fan, and thats plastic. I can only imagine what it would feel like touching this thing, with the plastic fans it just scares me into thinking i just got shocked or something but it doesnt actually hurt, this thing if its metal it could actually do some damage.

Also, i could just stop sticking my hand inside my case while its on.

It rotates in a way that the edges would never be brought against you. It is expelling air out the sides.