Researchers at the Sandia National Laboratories have developed a new technology that may greatly affect air-cooling of microelectronics. Current air cooling systems can suffer from “dead air” around cooling fins and act as a boundary. Their creation minimizes the thickness of that layer of air by as much as 90%. This could reduce the overall consumption of electricity in the USA by more than 7%, if implemented in more than just computers and servers. The current focus is the information technology sector in the USA, which has a yearly electric bill around seven billion dollars, and growing.
What the team has created is the Air Bearing Heat Exchanger, also called the Sandia Cooler, and at first glance, just looks like a heat sink with radial fins in a tight spiral. When in use though, the cooler spins, pulling air in from above and forcing it out of the sides. This obviously enhances the heat transfer from the electronics to the environment, but also causes the reduction in dead air. Because of the aerodynamics of the cooler, it is extremely quiet. The team has also stated that the technology can be scaled to different sizes, allowing for wider implementation than just electronics.
(Image is a composite of those used in the source article. Please visit the link for larger views.)