How-To Geek

Prototype Fanless Heatsink Is Silent and Dust-Immune

What does this chip cooler do that yours doesn’t? Run 30 times more efficiently, nearly silently, and repel any dust that settles on it, for starters. Check out the video to see it in action.

Although the video is a bit dry the heatsink in action is pretty impressive–nearly silent? repels dust? radically more efficient? Our only complaint is we can’t slap one on a test machine right this minute.

[via Extreme Tech]

Jason Fitzpatrick is a warranty-voiding DIYer who spends his days cracking opening cases and wrestling with code so you don't have to. If it can be modded, optimized, repurposed, or torn apart for fun he's interested (and probably already at the workbench taking it apart). You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 06/25/12

Comments (20)

  1. Anybodysguess

    You thought accidentally sticking your finger in a normal computer fan hurt, can’t imagine the pain of one of these things!

    Also with that “air bearing” won’t it have to be horizontal, will it run on it’s side like a normal cpu is an a normal tower?

  2. David Aris-Sutton

    @Anybodysguess – You’re right, with the current design and the use of the air bearing it would only run horizontal but I for one would be happy to make the change for such a massive increase in efficiency

  3. mehmeister

    Since many, many PCs have the Motherboard on it’s side, I assume this fan will work flawlessly on it’s side as well? That is never mentioned in the otherwse impressive video presentation.

  4. mehmeister

    bah, already mentioned by 1st poster… lol… fools like me should read other posts before posting :D

    IMO, I think the air-bearing thingy would work OK at other angles than horizontal, though it might make the fan go further away then intended?

    Superb idea/design non-the-less, and I hope to see a commercial product in the shops in the coming years :)

  5. dspang

    A good way to keep this safe from fingers is to enclose it some how with several vents that efficiently dissipate the hot air. Making note not to block off the main area that heat is expelled.

  6. Urichhai

    This would probably work well for say a 3 or 4U server case. I myself am in the process of building my system in my desk and the Mobo will be horizontal. I would love to see these come out commercially. Oh man how much fingertip would that thing take off if you did stick your finger in it. But I can see a way to at least add a mount to add a guard to the top and think if you added side guards you may see a loss of cooling.

  7. Anonymous

    From what I saw, this thing is just a modified fan. It’s really just a semi-turbo when you look at it. It still has something of a spinning shaft which can still squeak!

    I watched the video but I didn’t see much difference between this thing and a more conventional heat sink and fan. Other than this thing’s ability to resist dust build up because it spins, I don’t see any difference. I agree it looks cool (not to be pun-full) and it may even be more efficient. I just don’t see much improvement particularly when you consider “Anybodysguess” point that it’s not likely going to work vertically either.

    If you want quiet then it would seem like better designs are key. But let’s also not forget there’s probably a few things with regard to better chip design/lay out that could probably be done too.

    I also have to say that I’m also a little annoyed that our tax dollars are being spent/wasted on stuff like this. Particularly when you consider other private companies like Dyson who have already done very similar research and did it on their own dime, it could be yet another example of how government funded companies like Sandia Labs comes up with less imaginative stuff only years later. But that’s another rant.

  8. EKMA

    From the design aspect, the “fresh” air comes at the center-most point. As such, the air would then be forced along the fins and out the sides. In this case, the blades would be moving so the the rounded side would hit your finger first. In essence, it shouldn’t cut your finger if you were to touch it (assuming you didn’t touch it on the center core area). I think some of you are thinking the fan pulls the air from the outside in to the center core…this is not the case.

  9. MJP

    What’s their definition of efficiency? The only sensible thing to me seems to be the electrical energy consumed by the cooling fan related to the heat transfered from the CPU. Unless you run a data center, you’re not going to care about 5 W per fan. Even if you run a data center, you are more worried about the air conditioner you need to get the heat out of the building. And you won’t care if your fans are silent, since you can’t hear them over all the harddisks anyway.
    And how is an air bearing going to transfer heat? Air is a top grade insulator. They seem to have cut the interesting part from the video…

  10. Dave Dows

    For the answers regarding positional orientation, just refer to page 11 the white paper of one and a half years ago:

    “One important point about the air bearing is that the ~0.03 mm air gap is not maintained by
    using extremely tight mechanical tolerances. Much like an air hockey puck on an air hockey
    table, or a hard disk read/write head, the air gap distance is self-regulating. If the air gap
    distance increases, the air pressure in the gap region drops, which causes the air gap distance
    to decrease. This built in negative feedback provides excellent mechanical stability and an
    extremely stiff effective spring constant (important for ruggedness). Unlike an air hockey
    table, which relies on gravity to counter-balance the pressure force acting on the puck, the
    air-bearing cooler can be mounted in an arbitrary orientation (e.g., up-side-down, sideways,
    etc.). And unlike a computer disk drive, incidental mechanical contact between the two air
    bearing surfaces does not damage either surface.”

    Sounds similar to the Bernoulli technology used by Iomega in the 1980s, and I believe those drives didn’t have to be mounted horizontally either, nor do hard disks with read/write heads “flying” over the disk on an air gap or cushion.

  11. Jo_S

    And how would you protect your fingers from a spider table? :O A spider table:

  12. LadyFitzgerald

    @ Anonymous. Go back and watch the video again, this time paying close attention. This fan doesn’t have a shaft. Also, the fan itself is the heat sink.

    @MJP. Good points. Air is a good insulator only when it is static. The air bearing is thin enough that the air will not have a chance to become static since the fan will be dragging it along by surface friction. Tesla used a similar technology for a turbine that had only stacked flat disks that turned from friction with the spiraling exhaust gasses.

  13. Doug Spurell

    If I understood this presentation correctly, the device draws air into the top center down onto the chip encapsulation (case). This hot air is then expelled horizontally through the fins of the heat sink.

    Great design as the heat sink cools itself and the only limitation would be the T jc gradient.

  14. LadyFitzgerald

    @Doug Spurell. You’re close. The fan draws air down through the center but then flings it out the sides. Look at the video again and you will see that the bottom of the fan (when held horizontally) is solid all the way across. The air being moved by the fan never touches the encapusulation. Instead, the fan is supported by by a thin film of air between the base of the fan and the encapsulation; the air acting as a bearing. Heat is transmetted through that layer from the encapsulation to the base of the fan (since the film is so thin, friction won’t give it a chance to stay still long enough to develop an insulating boundary layer). The fan itself is basically a rotating heat sink that draws its own cooling air through it.

  15. LadyFitzgerald

    I stand…er…sit corrected on point. In the video, one shot shows the fan as having a solid base but others show a hole for the drive mechanisim. The airflow stays the same, however. The air flow pulled in by the fan does not go down past the base but is, instead, expelled out the perimeter by the impelllers.

  16. Jack in TN

    Any idea where the information is published? Since it is government funded research, it is ‘free’, or so the theory goes, for general public use.

    It would be great to develop an OpenSource version!

  17. xana452

    Shut up and take my money!

  18. Jeremy

    Ok so I think I’m missing something here. Essentially this is a heatsink with spinning fins instead of static fins with a fan forcing with through them. Here’s my question: If the heat sink is spinning how does it make the needed contact with the surface of the static processor to transfer the heat?

  19. pbarron

    We have enough racists in this world.
    Stop the bigotry and hatred against dust.

  20. LadyFitzgerald

    @ Jeremy. The heat is transferred through the air bearing. It’s thin enough to that friction with the spinning fan prevents the boundary layer from forming and allows the heat to be transferred.

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