Hitachi Ltd. has developed a notebook computer with a water-based radiator system, which could become the first of its kind used in mass-produced portable computers.
Water-based solutions have long been used to cool processors in more complex devices like supercomputers, which must be carefully maintained by users who refill the liquid if it evaporates or degrades. But by refining the quality of the solution, Hitachi has made it essentially maintenance-free and practical for use in cooling notebooks. The company says the innovation eliminates the need for fans, making the machine quieter and more durable, without raising costs or reducing power. The notebook works by pumping the solution past the hot processor through a stainless steel tube, absorbing the heat. That hot water is then pumped behind the notebook screen, where the heat radiates out into the surrounding air.
The system currently exists only as a prototype, but Hitachi plans to release a commercial version in Japan in the third quarter of this year, according to a spokesman. While there are no formal plans beyond that, he says, the notebooks will show up in the United States eventually, and the system could be used in other components, such as servers and plasma display panels.
Brian Eisenbrandt, owner of BE Cooling in Stevensville, Mich., sells water-cooling kits for desktop machines to hobbyists over the Internet, but he says he's never seen the system used in a notebook. "I'm curious to see how they get it so small," he says. But if it works, he believes water-cooling is the way to go. "It's quieter, it allows you to run cooler and to use higher clock speeds."