New types of cooling systems will be needed for future computer chips that will likely generate 10 times more heat than today's microprocessors, especially in small "hot spots," Garimella said.
Miniature refrigeration has a key advantage over other cooling technologies, Groll said.
"The best that all other cooling methods can achieve is to cool the chip down to ambient temperature, whereas refrigeration allows you to cool below surrounding temperatures," he said.
The ability to cool below ambient temperature could result in smaller, more powerful computers and also could improve reliability by reducing long-term damage to chips caused by heating.
One complication is that the technology would require many diaphragms operating in parallel to pump a large enough volume of refrigerant for the cooling system.
"So you have an array of 50 or 100 tiny diaphragm compressors, and you can stack them," Groll said.
The researchers conducted laboratory experiments with the diaphragms in Garimella's Thermal Microsystems Lab, developed a computational model for designing the compressor and validated the model with data from the lab. Findings showed that it is feasible to design a prototype system small enough to fit in a laptop, Garimella said.
The model enables the engineers to optimize the design, determining how many diaphragms to use and how to stack them, either parallel to each other or in series.
"If you stack in one direction, you get more pressure rise, and if you stack in the other direction, you get more volume pumped," Groll said.
Learning how to manufacture the devices at low cost is another major challenge, with industry requiring a cost of
|Contact: Emil Venere|