Researchers develop microrefrigerator on a chip

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Researchers develop microrefrigerator on a chip

Researchers from Arizona State University have demonstrated a microrefrigerator which effectively cools a PC system by targeting specific chip hot spots.

Until now, copper plates, fans and liquid cooling systems have been the traditional chip coolers, but now Intel-sponsored researchers have integrated thermoelectric material directly into chip packaging.

The idea of thermoelectric coolers isn't new, but its application is. Researchers use nanostructured thin-film superlattice as their material of choice.

While superlattice does conduct electricity, it doesn't much like conducting heat, making it useful as an integrated thermoelectric system.

Engineers integrated the cooler onto a tiny square of copper, similar to that already used as a heat disperser in contemporary chip packaging.

In this case, however, they stuck a 0.4mm squared bit of cooler in between the chip and the copper, so that when the microrefrigerator was turned on, it cooled a specific part of the chip by a 15°C.

The researchers say they'll soon be able to stick three or four microrefrigerators on each chip.

So far the cooling method is still a tad expensive to be in any way realistic, but the time for dispensing with clunky, noisy fans may soon be nigh.

Details of the super-cool research have been published in the journal Nature Nanotechnology. (c) 2010 Incisive Media

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