Microsoft has developed a new thermal management system that could be used in everything from laptops and tablets to PCs and consoles. Today,Windows Latest discovered a patent application, which the World Intellectual Property Organization published in May, for this new cooling technology.
The patent application describes a system built around a controller that is "configured to obtain a first measure of a power load, apply a filter to obtain a first filtered power load value, set a first thermal setpoint based on at least the first filtered power load value, determine a first temperature of the device and adjust a response in the cooling mechanism based at least on the first thermal setpoint." Then it repeats that entire process a while later.
Microsoft said it's the repetition of this process that makes a difference. If a thermal setpoint is too high, the company explained, a device's lifespan can be reduced by regularly operating at high temperatures. But relying on a lower thermal setpoint can also have its disadvantages, namely the inability to contend with higher temperatures for short periods of time when more performance is required (like when someone is gaming, rendering a video, et cetera).
That isn't to say the company would be content with variable setpoints, especially if they're based on power draw. Microsoft said that's because those systems can lead to "relatively sudden changes in cooling system performance, such as sudden increases in fan speed, which may be noticeable to a user." Nobody wants their PC, console, or portable device to sound like an airplane during takeoff just because the fans had to speed up a bit.
Here's how Microsoft described its proposed solution in the patent application:
"Accordingly, examples are disclosed that relate to cooling systems and methods of operating cooling systems that may help to overcome such issues. For example, instead of using raw power load measurements as an input to a cooling mechanism adjustment algorithm, a filter may be applied to the power load measurements to smooth the response of the fan speed or other control variable in response to changes in power load. Such a filter may take the form, for example, of a feed forward mechanism that acts as a time constant. The resulting smoothing may help to make changes in the cooling system response less noticeable to a user compared to use of an unfiltered power load value for such control while still providing effective cooling."
The company essentially wants to make a response thermal management system that can handle temperature increases caused by greater performance demands without causing a ruckus. (Microsoft goes into far more detail in the patent application if you're interested.) That could allow devices to better utilize their CPUs, GPUs and other components without overheating or making people fear they're doing something wrong as the fans spin up.
Microsoft filed this patent application in October 2018. As with every patent application from a major tech company, however, it's worth remembering this system's future is far from guaranteed. Companies often try to defend all of their intellectual property even if they don't plan to use it for themselves. This system could soon be in Microsoft's systems, laptops, tablets and Xbox consoles; it could also remain a series of technical diagrams.