Hardware & Infrastructure
News
11/3/2006
02:10 AM
Darrell Dunn
Darrell Dunn
Features
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

IBM Borrows From Biology To Get Cooling Spray On Chips

IBM researchers believe they're close to perfecting technology that will become the latest entrant in the nascent field of cooling off hot microprocessors by spraying them with liquid.

Taking a page from biology texts, IBM researchers believe they're close to perfecting technology that will become the latest entrant in the nascent field of cooling microprocessors by spraying them with liquid.

Power densities of some processors have reached around 100 watts per square centimeter and are expected to increase to 300 watts per square centimeter or more as transistor widths shrink and the number of processing elements on chips increases. Chipmakers are looking at ways of attacking the problem as close to the source of the heat as possible--meaning the chip itself.

Just chillin'

Just chillin'
At its research lab in Zurich, Switzerland, IBM has been working on technology that may eventually incorporate an array of up to 50,000 tiny nozzles that cool chips by squirting them with liquid.

"The cooling of the data center is an increasingly important problem, and the solution starts at the chip level," says Bruno Michel, manager of the advanced thermal packaging research group at IBM's Zurich lab.

Processors typically are cooled by flat plates affixed to chips using a thin paste. IBM researchers have developed a plate with a network of branched channels on its surface. The pattern allows the paste to be spread more evenly than in the past, meaning it can draw off more heat.

Systems of so-called hierarchical patterns can be found throughout nature, including among tree roots and in leaves, as well as in the human circulatory system. Such channels can serve large areas without expending a great deal of energy.

IBM is close to taking the technology into commercial application, Michel says, where "it can spread across the entire industry and become a new standard within two years."

In looking several years out, Michel believes the cooling capability will be extended with the use of direct jet impingement, an approach that sprays water onto the back of the chip and then sucks it off within a closed system around the chip.

The team in Zurich has demonstrated the ability to cool chips with power dissipation of 370 watts per square centimeter when using water as a coolant, or about six times greater than the current limits of air-cooling techniques.

The idea of taking heat off processors with liquid sprays isn't as radical as it sounds. Several companies are either selling or experimenting with technologies that use direct-attached spraying to cool chips, including Hewlett-Packard, Liebert, and SprayCool.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
The Business of Going Digital
The Business of Going Digital
Digital business isn't about changing code; it's about changing what legacy sales, distribution, customer service, and product groups do in the new digital age. It's about bringing big data analytics, mobile, social, marketing automation, cloud computing, and the app economy together to launch new products and services. We're seeing new titles in this digital revolution, new responsibilities, new business models, and major shifts in technology spending.
Register for InformationWeek Newsletters
White Papers
Current Issue
InformationWeek Tech Digest - July 22, 2014
Sophisticated attacks demand real-time risk management and continuous monitoring. Here's how federal agencies are meeting that challenge.
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
InformationWeek Radio
Live Streaming Video
Everything You've Been Told About Mobility Is Wrong
Attend this video symposium with Sean Wisdom, Global Director of Mobility Solutions, and learn about how you can harness powerful new products to mobilize your business potential.