Silent microchip 'fan' has no moving parts

Silent microchip 'fan' has no moving parts

Enough wind to cool a laptop, claim boffins

Boffins in the US have developed a microchip fan with no moving parts that operates silently and generates enough wind to cool a laptop computer.

The solid-state fan, developed with support from the US National Science Foundation (NSF), is touted as the most powerful and energy efficient fan of its size.

The device produces three times the flow rate of a typical small mechanical fan and is one-fourth the size.

RSD5 is the culmination of six years of research by Dan Schlitz and Vishal Singhal of Thorrn Micro Technologies when they were NSF-supported graduate students at Purdue University.

"The RSD5 is one of the most significant advances in electronics cooling since heat pipes. It could change the cooling paradigm for mobile electronics," said Singhal.

He explained that RSD5 incorporates a series of live wires that generate a micro-scale plasma (an ion-rich gas that has free electrons that conduct electricity).

The wires lie within uncharged conducting plates that are contoured into half-cylindrical shapes to partially envelop the wires.

Within the intense electric field that results, ions push neutral air molecules from the wire to the plate, generating a wind. The phenomenon is called corona wind.

"The technology is a breakthrough in the design and development of semiconductors as it brings an elegant and cost effective solution to the heating problems that have plagued the industry," said Juan Figueroa, the NSF officer who oversaw the research.

The technology has the power to cool a 25W chip with a device smaller than one cubic-cm and can someday be integrated into silicon to make self-cooling chips, according to the researchers.