You cannot cool a modern processor without using using thermal paste (preferably one of the best thermal pastes) to help transfer heat from the CPU to a heatsink. And most thermal pastes are made from either a combination of zinc oxide and silicone or some kind of liquid metal, because those materials are highly conductive. But what if there are other substances you have lying around the house that could either be substituted for or added to thermal paste to provide better cooling?
A TikTok user by the name of @mryeester, has been experimenting with a wide variety of foodstuffs to see if they can be substituted for off-the-shelf thermal paste. He has more than half a dozen videos showing his attempts to get household items such as powered sugar or maple syrup to help cool a CPU, but in almost every case, temperatures which much higher. However, when @mryeester added salt to some thermal paste, he saw temperature improvements of 2 to 3C over thermal paste alone.
@mryeester has had a lot more failures than successes. He tried shaping thermal paste like a box on the IHS of a CPU to see how bad the spread would be, but found that the thermal paste only spread towards the outer edges of the CPU, leaving the central area untouched. On Intel chips at least, this would be a terrible application since the CPU die sits directly in the middle of the chip, and would make the die extra hot due to the lack of direct thermal paste contact right on top of it.
However, changing the placement of your paste would still be a lot better than having none at all. A case can be made for using this outer-edge approach with modern AMD Ryzen chips since the central compute die and IO die are not in the center of the chip. However, lack of coverage on the center would still result in higher temps - compared to having the entire IHS covered.
In a couple of his other thermal paste videos, @mryeester didn't necessarily target better temps, but did try to show interesting paste placements and alternate substances. In one, he tried shaping a Discord logo out of thermal paste directly on the IHS, and this time the IHS was covered fully after spreading the thermal paste out. But obviously, the discord shape itself attributed no advantage to the spread at all, since the spread was perfectly even across the entire IHS.
In another video, he tried replacing thermal paste with powered sugar, thinking that the fine-grained material would provide enough contact between the IHS and the CPU. Sadly it did not, with temps being about 60 degrees higher than with thermal paste.
@mryeester (opens in new tab) ♬ original sound - mryeester (opens in new tab)
One of his worst performers was replacing thermal paste with maple syrup, where temperatures were very bad, with his Intel CPU hitting 69C immediately in the BIOS.
@mryeester also tried adding liquid metal directly in the middle of the CPU, with a circle of thermal paste applied around the liquid metal, acting as a barrier to prevent the liquid metal from spilling onto the edges of the CPU (and killing the CPU). But unfortunately, after applying a CPU cooler to the chip then removing it, he found that the thermal paste spread over the chip perfectly and pushed all the liquid metal to the edges, making it completely useless.
But one of his experiments succeeded in actually outperforming normal thermal paste. This experiment involved salt, since salt has a higher thermal conductivity than most thermal pastes on the market today.
At first, @mryeester tried mixing iodized salt with thermal paste, and seeing what would happen. But unfortunately in this first run, he was unsuccessful. But next he tried grinding down the salt into a fine powder, then mixed it in with his thermal paste, and surprisingly this compound mixture worked. With his normal thermal paste his CPU was only hitting 49C, but with the powdered salted mixture, temps dropped by 2 to 3 degrees C.
@mryeester (opens in new tab) ♬ original sound - Lonely Bunker (opens in new tab)
While this is cool to see, we cannot say if this mixture will work in all situations. There could be a number of reasons why this mixture worked in this particular situation, including if @myyeester added too much or too little thermal paste in his test setup, or if his paste was not the best compound to begin with.
After testing more than 90 different thermal pastes, we've noted that some products have 1 to 2 degree better thermals than others. So this 2 to 3 degree drop mixing in salt might be matched just by using higher-quality thermal compounds.
Nonetheless, its cool to see a very unusual experiment like mixing salt with thermal paste work at all. Who knows, if TikTokers like @mryeester continue to experiment, they might find a new thermal compound mixture that actually works far better than the regular thermal paste products that we have today.