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Cooling CPUs with "nano-fridges"

Multicoreinfo.com points us to a Computerworld piece on nano-fridges for cooling your chips

With heat sinks and fans not up to the task of cooling the 100-degree-Celsius and greater chips, makers stopped trying to raise processor speeds several years ago and moved to building multicore CPUs instead.

…Now, a more elegant solution is on the horizon. Researchers at Intel, RTI International and Arizona State University have developed a micro-refrigerator that can be easily mounted on chips to draw heat from hot spots with surgical precision.

The technology was developed with support by DARPA money, and uses a thin (10 microns) film to move heat

It is a super-thin film made from thermoelectric molecules such as Bismuth telluride and Antimony telluride.

Thermoelectric materials such as these convert heat into electricity. In other words, “you’re using electrons to pump heat away,” Venkatasubramanian said.
Venkatasubramanian and the other researchers have been able to reduce heat on a simulated CPU by 15 degrees Celsius. But he is optimistic that by using more thermally conductive materials on the silicon chip, such as improved solder or even carbon nanotubes, the micro-refrigerator could help cool a chip by as much as 40 degrees Celsius.

I think the “fridge” analogy is a bit of a stretch, but it made for a good headline so I kept it.

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