Building A Refrigerator For Your Laptop


West Lafayette (IN) - Researchers from Purdue University claim they are getting closer to develop a much more efficient cooling system that the traditional heatsink-fan design used in many computers today. Suresh Garimella and Eckhard Groll say they can miniaturize traditional refrigerator designs to become small enough to fit in desktop computers or even notebooks.

The design the two researchers are working on is a type of vapor-compression refrigeration, which is commonly used for large-scale air-conditioning as well as your refrigerator at home. The basic concept of this technology uses a circulating liquid in different pressure states to remove heat from a device.

Typically, vapor-compression refrigeration technology, involves four main components: An evaporator, a compressor, a condenser, and an expansion valve. A refrigeration cycle begins with the refrigerant entering the compressor as a superheated vapor at low pressure. The liquid exits the compressor as vapor with higher pressure and enters the condenser, where it is condensed as heat is removed to cooling water or via air and an assisting fan to the outside of a casing. The liquid exits the condenser as a high-pressure liquid. The pressure decreases as it flows through the expansion valve where portions of the liquid turn into cold vapor. The remaining liquid then is directed to the evaporator, where the low pressure liquid is vaporized as heat is transferred from the refrigerated space. The cycle is complete by sending the liquid back into the compressor.

The idea of using this common refrigeration technology for smaller electronic devices is not entirely new and has been discussed especially in the past 8 years in numerous scientific papers. However, the challenge appears to have been to understand how these systems can work on a small scale and how especially compressors can be miniaturized.
Garimella and Groll from Purdue now claim that they have succeeded in designing tiny compressors that pump refrigerants using penny-size diaphragms. The elastic membranes are made of ultra-thin sheets of a plastic called polyimide and coated with an electrically conducting metallic layer. The metal layer allows the diaphragm to be moved back and forth to produce a pumping action using electrical charges, or "electrostatic diaphragm compression." So far, it is only one part of the refrigeration cycle, but the scientists believe that such a system can be made small enough to fit into laptops.

Unlike conventional cooling systems, which use a fan to circulate air through finned devices called heat sinks attached to computer chips, miniature refrigeration would dramatically increase how much heat could be removed, Garimella said.

  • Darkk
    Which is easier? Make cooler processors or complicated cooling solutions that could fail?
  • Pei-chen
    How about developing a more effective heatpipe design. Sure it won't get below ambient but I don't need my processor to run below 25°C.
  • ilovebarny
    sounds cool. what if it breaks? thats got to cost a lot.
  • retro77
    What about all the moisture build up?

    Also if this leaks, there goes your system.
  • MxM
    And why thermo-electric coolers (TECs) are not used today? They are small enough... Because it takes more power and thus reduces battery life - that's why. I think it will be similar problem with this compressors. Believe it or not, air cooling is very efficient way to cool, it just can not cool to temperatures lower then environment. But as long as your processors can work around 50C, there should be no problems...
  • SykaSirKits
    I think you guys may be failing to see the point here. Phase-change cooling is the best cooling available period. If some scientist can figure out a way to get this bulky, typically 40 pound or more cooling system into my laptop then by all means cram that crap in there and give me the latest NVidia 10,000X reality synthesizing chip powered by a hydrogen-fusion mini reactor so I can play the latest games. OK, we'll ignore the fact that a NVidia 10,000X reality chip or hydrogen-fusion mini reactor DO NOT exist,but if they did, they would need ridiculous cooling capabilities as offered by this mobile phase change cooling solution, so leave these scientists alone and let them do their work!!!!
  • iocedmyself
    So long as there is no overclocking involved conventional heatsink/fan cooling should be fine for 98% of computer owners. As to the comparison of TEC and compressors power usage, there is none. A 6000btu window air conditioner uses about 500w to cool a 200sq ft room down to 61F.

    A TECs used in the poorly designed heatsinks that cost $150 suck up about 200w and barely perform on par with normal heat pipe coolers.

    But then again my TEC cooler which uses copper heatsinks and fans to cool the hot side and acts as an air conditioner keeps my 125w dual core cpu at 10c under 100% load.
  • I
    Even with overclocking a conventional heatsink/fan is fine for 98%. The point of most overclockers is to get something for (almost) nothing, to get the most value out of a low to midrange chip and paying a lot more for exotic cooling is contrary to that goal.

    Price really is the bottom line. "Best" doesn't have to mean cools the most, it can mean cheapest. Besides, think about the fact that nobody wants their devices to use so much power->heat that a different cooling tech is needed.

    Oh yeah, they ignore the other crucial factor. They're only moving heat away from the source but not out of the system yet, even with this you still have to have either a large passive radiator or a fan on a smaller one. They'd increase the complexity and cost of the system, with it no more likely to outlive a simple fan on a hunk of metal since it would still most likely use a fan as a large passive 'sink adds more to the cost.

    Might be more useful in aerospace applications with extreme conditions, otherwise just shrinking down an AC isn't terribly advanced.
  • jacklynembrey
    i read that update or information first and found that is better for me as the part of <a href="">Alexandria auto body</a> like Suresh Garimella and Eckhard Groll say they can miniaturize traditional refrigerator designs to become small enough to fit in desktop computers or even notebooks.