Thermoelectric (TEC) Cooling Solutions

Hey Everyone,

So now that things are going to start warming up outside, I've become a bit worried about my laptop. About a year and a half old, my Samsung RF511-S02 with its GeForce 540m heats up quite a bit, up to as much as 94C or thereabouts when playing intensive games such as Battlefield 3. While it hasn't really been a problem this winter (and I only started gaming last spring so I had no experience with it the first winter I owned it,) last spring and summer it frequently crashed to BSOD due to overheating. Even with a CoolerMaster U3, which, for its price and functionality is a fantastic cooling pad, my laptop continued to BSOD.
Now, this spring and summer may be different. Perhaps the end of the BSODs was not related to winter and instead due to my underclocking of the GPU for awhile. Who knows. However, I am still interested in constructing my own laptop cooling pad which will mainly exploit the properties of Thermoelectric cooling (TEC.) For all those who don't know much about the basic concepts regarding TEC (I sure had no idea until I found the Wikipedia page,) there's a link at the end of this post.

Sadly, I don't know much about electrical engineering, creating circuits, etc. but here is what I'm considering:

If you go to the first link (the Spark Fun one,) you will see that the TMax, which I believe is the maximum temperature differential between the two sides, is 69C. I'm just starting to understand all of the terms so I could be wrong, but so I believe that this means that if the room temperature is 20C, the cold side of the TEC would be -14.5C (pretty damn cold... 5.9 Fahrenheit). While no doubt heinous to all who are reading this, I'm thinking that I might even be able to overclock my laptop a bit, given how cold the TECs can get.
However, I obviously cannot put the TEC in my laptop. Therefore, I was thinking that I could somehow build a setup that would push air through small tubes (like those small ones used in fish tanks) which I would run across the TEC to get the air chilled as much as possible. Then, I would force the air through the intake vents of my laptop. This part, I think, would be perhaps the most important part; if I could somehow seal my laptop so that the only air it would intake would be this chilled air (perhaps by cutting some silicon to fit around the vents so that it would make an air-tight seal) the system would be much more effective, as apposed to just sticking the tubes next to the output or intake vents, hoping that the air reaches the CPU and GPU.
Other things I've been considering is generating electricity from the hotside of the TEC. As I've been reading online, one of the major issues with TEC Technology is its energy intake being huge. In order to combat this, I was thinking that if I had a water cooling setup attached to the hot side of the TEC (which would be necessary anyways, assuming I didn't use a heatsink) I could then have a turbine setup on the water cooling system which would generate electricity from the heated water rising.

Because of the lack of precedent, as far as I've been able to find, on the internet, I'm sort of worried, since I don't have anything to base my idea off of. The only thing related to cooling laptops with refrigeration that I could find was a project in 2007 between Embraco and Intel (link below.) However, it appears that the project was never sold (FAIL!).

So, that was my whole idea pretty much. I don't know if its very practical but I'm really interested in doing it so if anyone could lend me a hand I would be much obliged.

General TEC Info:

Buying TEC:

Failed Embraco Project:
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More about thermoelectric cooling solutions
  1. Check out 4Ryan6's Sub-ambient cooling sticky up top, its the journey he's undertaken with his desktop but there may be some items of interest for you in there, one guy has Tec-cooled his armchair for instance so a laptop should be easy :P
  2. Here's a link to add to your collection regarding what can be successfully done using a peltier.

    Adapting this technology to cool a laptop is a different challenge, I had an instant mental picture of heat pipes sticking outside the laptop to take advantage of the TEC cooling.

    The word modification comes to mind like a brick, because modifying will be in the future to make this successful.

    Laptop coolers are completely enclosed inside the laptop with the heat exchanger the last thing in the exhaust or intake line depending on how it is arranged.

    My thoughts were regarding finding another heat pipe setup like from an old motherboard or something that could extend outside the laptop shell, then you'd have access to the heat exchanger outside the laptop.

    You cannot cut and modify a heat pipe exchanger, because you don't have the capabilities to reseal so you'll have to find an alternative heat pipe exchanger.

    The modifying would be whatever it takes to allow the exchanger to extend outside the laptop shell.

    There is a lot of learned information not shared in the link I gave you regarding getting what you want from a peltier cooler, if you use a 1/4" or 3/8" or 1/2" thick aluminum cold plate, you can seriously cut down the peltiers Ice forming capability.

    Note: (The thickness of the cold plate determines the slow down rate transferred through the cold plate, you would need to test the contacting side of the cold plate to see which thickness will work the best)

    Meaning you could bring the laptop heat exchanger outside the laptop (as previously covered), mount the aluminum cold plate directly on the heat exchanger coming out of the laptop, mount the cold side of the peltier to the cold plate then and older AMD stock heat pipe cooler should easily be able to cool the peltiers hot side, (Of the peltier you linked to!).

    Let me sum up a word mental picture:

    The original laptops CPU cooler, (A heat pipe thermal exchanger) needs to be replaced with a different model but still capable of being firmly maounted to the laptops CPU.

    The replacement heat pipe exchanger mounts to the CPU and extends through the laptops original cooling port holes, (modifying will be necessary and your laptop warranty gone), the TEC cooling solution would be mounted to the heat exchanger outside the laptop.

    Sounds simple in words, but is a massive project to undertake, a lot of modification will have to be done, ( even mounting the cold plate to the heat exchanger will be a modifying task), there's nothing simple about it, or laptop manufacturers would already be doing it.

    Anyway that's my mental picture to solve your cooling situation, if you want to talk more about it, PM me. Ryan
  3. Hmm, lots of stuff to think about. Thanks guys. I'll message back, depending on what I decide is the best course of action based on my expertise (which is rather low.) I haven't managed to be able to access the CPU and GPU yet, despite looking through many guides online on the topic, so right now much of the options presented are out of reach. I may try again soon.
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