Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in

MIT Develops a Cooling Technology of the Future

By - Source: Tom's Hardware US | B 51 comments

I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Are you listening? "Plastics."

In terms of cooling, we presently use our massive (and impressive-looking) heatsinks made of heat-conductive metals all in hopes of drawing as much heat as possible away from our chips.

Researchers at MIT have made a notable breakthrough in transforming polyethylene, the most widely used polymer, into a material that conducts heat just as well as most metals while retaining its properties as an electrical insulator.

Another special property of this transformed polyethylene is that it conducts heat very efficiently in just one direction, which makes it highly suitable for cooling a computer chip.

While discoveries such as this are often in an infancy stage that makes it just dream material for computer enthusiasts, the added promise in this latest breakthrough is recognition and interest from Intel.

Ravi Prasher, an engineer at Intel, took notice of the work and characterized the researchers' work as "phenomenal," and added that "this is a very significant finding."

Read more at MIT.

Discuss
Display all 51 comments.
This thread is closed for comments
Top Comments
  • 23 Hide
    XD_dued , March 11, 2010 12:10 AM
    Impressive. Lighter too?
  • 21 Hide
    sheath , March 11, 2010 12:22 AM
    shadow187But how cheap is it to produce in mass-quantities?


    Its polyethylene, it cant be that expensive.
  • 20 Hide
    shadow187 , March 11, 2010 12:11 AM
    But how cheap is it to produce in mass-quantities?
Other Comments
  • 23 Hide
    XD_dued , March 11, 2010 12:10 AM
    Impressive. Lighter too?
  • 20 Hide
    shadow187 , March 11, 2010 12:11 AM
    But how cheap is it to produce in mass-quantities?
  • 5 Hide
    jrharbort , March 11, 2010 12:15 AM
    This has me quite curious. I'm wondering how something like this would perform after long term use. Most common plastics get very brittle and break (or even melt) after being exposed to a heat source for too long.

    On the plus, it should be cheaper to produce than copper/aluminum based coolers.
  • 0 Hide
    IzzyCraft , March 11, 2010 12:19 AM
    sounds amazing.. but so do most things, i'm sure it has some issue such as high cost or something.
  • 21 Hide
    sheath , March 11, 2010 12:22 AM
    shadow187But how cheap is it to produce in mass-quantities?


    Its polyethylene, it cant be that expensive.
  • 4 Hide
    akhodjaev , March 11, 2010 12:25 AM
    let us know when it is toddler stage. maybe there will be positive changes and maybe ready for implementation
  • 17 Hide
    cheepstuff , March 11, 2010 12:28 AM
    @ shadow187
    polyethylene is a petroleum-based compound. it is also the base component in plastics. because there is already a huge industry dealing with this kind of material, you should expect it to be more expensive than a child's action figure but less than a common, high end, full copper heatsink you can find today (assuming it is made without any other expensive components like copper).

    according to the source, the only difference in making this stuff over normal plastics is slowly lining up the polymers so they all face one direction. IMO this could be interesting because we could eventually get flexible heat pipes out of this.
  • 1 Hide
    ecmjr , March 11, 2010 12:39 AM
    I want my cold beverage while surfing gaming :) 
  • -5 Hide
    ecmjr , March 11, 2010 12:40 AM
    "Surfing the web AND Gaming"
  • 13 Hide
    thrust2night , March 11, 2010 12:40 AM
    Knowing Intel, they will brand it as an "Extreme Edition" cooler going for $999.99 in quantities of a thousand.
  • 10 Hide
    DM0407 , March 11, 2010 12:41 AM
    Quote:
    let us know when it is toddler stage. maybe there will be positive changes and maybe ready for implementation


    I'd say let it get out of adolescence first. It won't do what you want it to during this period.
  • 4 Hide
    hispeed120 , March 11, 2010 12:48 AM
    This is quite an achievement to be honest. Nearly all polymers are terrible thermal conductors. I am however, skeptical as to how it maintains electrical insulation while increasing thermal conductivity...

    Also, referring to shadow187's comment:
    Chances are, if it's polymer, it can be mass-produced very cost effectively.
  • 2 Hide
    husker , March 11, 2010 1:11 AM
    I wonder if it could be used as the basis of a new type of thermal compound as well. Perhaps even top of the CPU will be made of this material, allowing for an almost perfect transfer of heat from the CPU to the heatsink.
  • 3 Hide
    Anonymous , March 11, 2010 1:13 AM
    it's actually a misconception that plastic is cheaper cause of all the cheap plastic stuff floating around, as a material it's probably more expensive to fabricate than metal on a piece for piece comparison, plastics do however have one advantage, economies of scale, the more you make the cheaper it becomes, you need to be able to manufacture and sell in the regions of millions for plastic to be considered cheaper than metal, but for batch runs of thousands odd, then metal is by far a cheaper alternative
  • 3 Hide
    l3a0 , March 11, 2010 1:17 AM
    Yea, thermal conductivity and electrical conductivity usually goes hand in hand. However, the promise of nanotechnology to enable to us manipulate atomic structure means we can get the molecules to do what we want, rather than relying on "natural" properties.
  • 2 Hide
    dragoon190 , March 11, 2010 1:21 AM
    All technology will be expensive before the price goes down. It'll be interesting to see how long it'll take to turn this piece of technology practical.
  • 3 Hide
    fjjb , March 11, 2010 1:52 AM
    it wont look as good as shinny metal or copper :p 
  • 3 Hide
    requiemsallure , March 11, 2010 1:56 AM
    doesn't this really mean, that if we can conduct heat in certain ways with plastics that we will be able to move or 'conduct' electrons in the same way someday? an interesting thought. plastic computers!!!! no more ESD!!! although i suppose this is still far off. but it makes you think... fundamentally it's beginning to look possible.
  • -4 Hide
    groveborn , March 11, 2010 3:08 AM
    I believe that plastic cpus were already invented, but sucked too horribly to bother with.
  • -4 Hide
    nebun , March 11, 2010 3:08 AM
    ok, when can i get my i7 heat sink?
Display more comments