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Cooling Hardware With Microfans

CmdrTaco posted more than 13 years ago | from the i-can-hear-the-music-again dept.

Technology 197

Jeriten writes "NewsScientist puplished this story about how your chips could be cooled down without that huge and noisy fan. Answer is multiple fans sized smaller than head of a pin and growed directly to a surface of a chips." Now if they could just make hard drives silent, we finally could hear ourselves think in a room with 3-4 computers. I tell ya, the noise generated by a few PCs doesn't seem like much until you turn off the tunes.

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Big fans (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#488552)

Big fans are ok. If they are of high quality they can be almost noiseless, I replaced all of the small fans in my case with some larger ones and the machine is running a lot cooler and quiter now. It's those small fans with high-pitched noises that are the worst!

OK, (1)

morie (227571) | more than 13 years ago | (#488553)

So now my silent box and I are stuck next to a noisy highway. Now what? Silent cars?

What about (2)

bluelip (123578) | more than 13 years ago | (#488554)

replacement? What happens when these fans go bad. I understand that there are probably many of them and a single failure won't hurt, But will I have to throw my chip away after 25% of them die?

Re:What about (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#488555)

Also, what are you suppose to do about dust? Seems to me that two dust particles would take out one of these fans so fast.

Pedantry (1)

Metal Machine Music (255620) | more than 13 years ago | (#488556)

> Jeriten writes "NewsScientist Ah yes. I remember the News Scientist. Is that the dude who reads the news in a white coat? > puplished this story Puplished? Oh so it's one of those nasty scientists that does tests on dogs. Nasty man. > about how your chips could be cooled down Personally I find the best way to cool chips is to leave them out of the oven for a while after you've fried them. > Answer is multiple fans Is this a definite article? [poor grammatical joke] > sized smaller than head of a pin and growed Like Topsy? She just growed and growed and growed. > directly to a surface of a chips. A chips? [In silly 60s detective film voice]: "Excuse me Mr. Chips we have a situation here."

Why not collect that heat? (3)

brink (78405) | more than 13 years ago | (#488557)

While this is an interesting and neat idea, what I want to know is how about a device which reclaims that heat and converts it back into electricity? I'm not sure how that'd be implemented, but it seems an awful waste that we let all that heat energy be expelled when conceivably it could be recycled.

A related idea would be to make some sort of heat exchanger that'd simultaneously cool the cpu and warm your room. With lots of machines, that could save a lot in heating costs.

I don't know, just an idea. Anyone know if something like this has ever been done before?

How Valuable (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 13 years ago | (#488558)

Silent hardware is nice, but there can't be too many people willing to pay a large premium for it (as oppposed to, say, flat screens.) Until the price is comparable to the noisy varieties, this is going to be a non-event.

Not only Maxtors (1)

_570RM_ (262173) | more than 13 years ago | (#488559)

I have a Fujitsu 20GB and i never hear it. Its getting to the point where its disturbing during a long fsck :)

Re:Pedantry (1)

Metal Machine Music (255620) | more than 13 years ago | (#488560)

[Formatting fixed: sorry. (Why is HTML the default??]

> Jeriten writes "NewsScientist

Ah yes. I remember the News Scientist. Is that the dude who reads the news in a white coat?

> puplished this story

Puplished? Oh so it's one of those nasty scientists that does tests on dogs. Nasty man.

> about how your chips could be cooled down

Personally I find the best way to cool chips is to leave them out of the oven for a while after you've fried them.

> Answer is multiple fans

Is this a definite article? [poor grammatical joke]

> sized smaller than head of a pin and growed

Like Topsy? She just growed and growed and growed.

> directly to a surface of a chips.

A chips?

[In silly 60s detective film voice]: "Excuse me Mr. Chips we have a situation here."

I like my loud computer. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488561)

My computer has 12 fans:

two on the power supply,

two 80mm fans venting the hard drives,

the CPU fan, the fan on the GeForce 2 GTS,

the 80mm fan on the front, the 3-fan 5.25" bay vent, and

two Antec Cyclone slotfans (one below my sound card, one below my video card).
I also have two 3.7" fans that are just waiting to be put in (one from an old 386, one from an ancient Bernoulli drive). If I did happen to find places for those two, then my fan total would go up to 14.
No, I'm not overclocking this system; I hate overclocking. I just hate heat and dust buildup inside the case.

Re:OK, (3)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 13 years ago | (#488562)

To be blunt, yes. Silencing of cars, trucks, buses would go a long way to increasing general mental health in the cities. I recall reading about a muffler for diesel trucks that used a computer to analyse the noise coming down the exhaust and creating an interference pattern to muffle the sound. Whenever I go to the country it's not the silence that I notice, but the goddamn noise when I finally force myself to return to civilisation. We are doomed.

There are two fanless computers already (2)

plsuh (129598) | more than 13 years ago | (#488563)

Why bother with fans at all? There are two fully-functional desktop personal computers out there today that you can go out and plunk down cash, credit card, or check with two forms of ID and take home right away. You can install Linux or *BSD on them, or use the vendor's pre-installed OS. In two months, the vendor is going to release a new, Unix-based BSD 4.4-compatible operating system that will be pre-installed on all of the machines come the summer.

What am I talking about? The iMac and the Cube, both by Apple. Both are completely convection cooled, and the only sound you hear is the clicking of the hard drive (and the sound of the other poor bozos getting fragged in Q3A ;-) Check it out at Apple's iMac page [] and Apple's Cube page [] .

OK, so I work for Apple, but c'mon folks, do the design right and you don't need a fan!


Problem: Processors are too hot. (2)

Panamon777 (78286) | more than 13 years ago | (#488564)

Solution: Find ways to cool them.

While I understand that electronics will (for the foreseeable future) generate heat, it seems to me that it is just as important to find ways to make them run cooler as it is to find ways to cool them. Apple's latest iMac line (I think) was convection cooled - but the monitor, processor, and hard drive give off enough heat to make the entire machine very warm. It definitely a step towards a quieter computer, but an iMac won't suffice for your average Slashdot reader.

As for microfans - they're not really even microelectronics. They belong in the region of "mesoscale," which means macroscopic but small. I saw pictures of Apple's latest G4 (which rivals the Pentium in terms of energy consumption) in which Apple had encased the entire processor card in plastic to dampen fan noise.

Anyway, just some thoughts.

For those interested in Science (1)

ishrat (235467) | more than 13 years ago | (#488565)

Scientists from the Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory announced that its new particle accelerator, the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, had created the highest density of matter ever made in an experiment. The record for creating the densest matter in an experiment, previously set by CERN last year, has been broken just a couple of times in the last 15 years.

The link. []

New Scientist is NOT a reliable source (1)

Binx Bolling (60970) | more than 13 years ago | (#488566)

It is amusing to see slashdot editors consistenly take New Scientist seriously. It is a hair above the Weekly World News in the journalistic food chain. I was "interviewed" by one of their "reporters" once. That only confirmed what most scientists/engineers already know about its penchant for enhancing mundane science with the most preposterous speculation.

Great (1)

Jakdaw (103263) | more than 13 years ago | (#488567)

As computers start to do more and more things in our homes (streamed audio replacing radio, video capture replacing your vcr, mp3 collection replacing your cd collection [perhaps] etc) silent computers will be a requirement. This sort of technology is a great step forward towards this.

As for noisy hard-drives this probably won't be a problem as you'd probably not want data to be stored away from devices that you physically interact with and accessible from several of them. Each home could have a server built in in the loft with fast networking around the home. All data is stored on the server, then lower performance systems could be installed next to your tv/hifi etc.

Good idea (3)

DiSKiLLeR (17651) | more than 13 years ago | (#488568)

This definitely sounds like a good idea.

/me looks around the room and counts.

Okay, i have some 6 computers sorrounding me in this real small room. I live in Australia. The Temperature outside is over 40C. (110F). Its hot.

Luckily, we have the A/C on, so its real cool in here. But the computers make FAR too much noise with all the darn fans.

I'm not even going to begin counting how many fans my main workstation (Dual PIII-500 512mb ram) has. Well. Okay. Cpu fans, 2. Case fans (extra added by me), power supply fans, and even fans on my CD-R.

And thats not my only Dual CPU box ...

Computers definitely have a problem with heat, and shoving ever more fans into cases is not the solution. New tech such as this, is.

When the power goes out, its almost surprising at the silence around you ... only then you realise just how noisy the room was with all the fans.


Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#488569)

I don't know about you, but when I open my case to upgrade my harddrive/videocard/whatever I find that most of the dust is either being drawn in by the fans, or collected on the fans.

I think a real solution to that would be some kind of filter. I have one cast that has a filter over the fan in the front of the case and that works very well, I think that would be better then more fans.

Re:There are two fanless computers already (1)

Sc00ter (99550) | more than 13 years ago | (#488570)

The new iMacs have fans, and they sell them for the older ones that do not.

Why? because they overheat and shut off. There was also reported problems with the cubes doing this.

one meg rpm? (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#488571)

One interesting piont at the end of the article:
Mark Spearing, currently testing microturbines at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, calls the fan "ingenious", but says the speeds achieved are "rather slow".

"We're striving for in excess of one million rpm in our motor," he says.

Spearing has other concerns too. "I am not a big fan of frictional or sliding contacts in micro electro-mechanical devices," he says. "Friction and wear tend to be potential show-stoppers at these scales."

I can see the need for 1 meg rpm, because I don't know how much circulation you are going to get for cooling otherwise. Cooling does require a certain amount of air volume, or something, to do the job.

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

Archanagor (303653) | more than 13 years ago | (#488572)

So ... you're the reason for the rolling blackouts in CA? <grin>


Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 13 years ago | (#488573)

Ok, we've built the steam engine ... now how the hell do we reduce the noise of the turbines?

Re:What about (1)

Bojay Iverson (261262) | more than 13 years ago | (#488574)

By the time 25% of the fans die, your chips will probably be outdated and ripe for replacement anyway.

OC possibilities....*grins* (1)

Daemosthenes (199490) | more than 13 years ago | (#488575)

I can just imagine it know...

Cries of "I have 12 fans on my computer" from all the OC sites will rapidly be replaced by "I have 300,000 fans on my computer!" However, things like Sub-zero alcohol cooled PC's [] will never change.

47.5% Slashdot Pure(52.5% Corrupt)

fan failure? (1)

trazom28 (134909) | more than 13 years ago | (#488576)

So.. what do you do when the fan fails and needs replacing... get out your microscope and tweezers or what? Nothing lasts forever.

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488577)

My 3-fan bay vent has a filter on it. I could probably go to the local hardware store (screw Home Depot!) and get some filtering to squeeze in front of the 80mm fan in the front. However, my room is kinda dusty (I live in it, right?), and I had to clean out the filter of the 3-fan vent about two weeks ago. As for the other fans, I attack them with an air duster.

Still, the computer itself has a commanding stance: it's a full tower standing on my desk, and you always know when it's on (whirrrrrrrr!!!!). As you can probably tell by now, I hated the G4 cube; it was too damn quiet (of course, I'm leaving out its other downfalls).

Good Feng Shui (2)

twisty (179219) | more than 13 years ago | (#488578)

My wife and I collaborate on many projects... I produce a lot of art and programs on computer, she had never touched a computer until five years ago, but we're both artists. Anywho, we often produce some party events for the local science fiction community, and have learned what an important contribution Feng Shui adds to an environment's creature comforts.

I've lately heard a lot of good things about how quiet MacIntoshes are. Since I've been making this the year of my Microsoft purge, I have become self-sufficient in GNU/Linux with the help of the local users group. But lately I've become aware just how much noise fills a room with a single tower... or even with no tower and only a 3com Superstack 24port hub, running its fan. Such a harmful shar can be maddening when compounded.

There has got to be a more efficient way to "recycle" wasted energy in a system... particularly in notepads. If a modern CPU generates 25watts of energy into raw heat, and a fan is required to cool it, reducing battery life, there's got to be a way to use that more efficiently. If the CPU heat can not only run its own fans, but maybe also backlight a display or something else useful, then the waste of heat and noise are replaced with greater efficiency.

Apple anyone? (3)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#488579)

Common, bitchin' about fans in computers is so 1984. Just get too carried away with this whole fanless silence thing and you end up with a computer [] that looks like a water cooler.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

Gobeur (212824) | more than 13 years ago | (#488580)

Dude, I live in South America and believe me, you wouldn't want your room to be hotter!

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488581)

So ... you're the reason for the rolling blackouts in CA?

Most likely not, I live in Massachusetts, 20 miles west of Boston (as the train rolls, not as the crow flies).

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

pruneau (208454) | more than 13 years ago | (#488582)

Sorry to dampen our enthousiams, but the first or second law of thermodynamics prevent this. In substance it says that you cannot do it, because you will create heat in the process anyway.

Or is that a new kind of thermodynamic trolling ?

It's wAIfer thin mOnsieur :) (1)

jeff13 (255285) | more than 13 years ago | (#488583)

Ugg... why are you script kiddies such jerks. SHUT UP! Don't post unless you have something to say that's at least an amusing contribution to what is laughably referred to as a "discussion thread". Also, "...and growed directly to a surface of a chips." is just... too much. Someone edit! Oh, and these fans are an interesting gadget. The media has picked up this story last night (sorry Slashdot) and showed the fans are made from the same silicon material as the chips themselves, just cut into fan shapes and powered to work (funny, never saw them actually demonstrated). This strikes me as another sign of the growing miniature research and development world (an interesting subject to discuss in ... oh say ... a thread?). IBM being well known for all their press releases about atom sized working parts, etc. But when will all these miniature miracles be used for the public good? ... HAHAHAHA! I know, it's just so funny to say such things. Cheers monkeys... ;p

Re:more fans - more power - more fans - more power (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488584)

No way. Ever put your hands on the GeForce while it's running? OUCH, that's hot! There's a reason why they put heatsinks on the DDR ram.

progress ? (2)

mirko (198274) | more than 13 years ago | (#488585)

We just discussed about power shortages [] and you keep your hungry hardware ?
Come on !
i just think we should take a deeper look to the low-consumption alternatives around, like this [] , or this [] .
What ? Vapourware. Nope. I own many machines running these processors and my brother just bought a transmeta laptop which he's in love with.
Don't believe the hype and aim your purchases towards a brighter future.
Intel's selling radiators, so is Nvidia.

can they.. (1)

enrico_suave (179651) | more than 13 years ago | (#488586)

Can they build these into t-shirts too?

Of course this could lead to propagating smells, while cooling off the person wearing the special micro fan shirt...

E. [] -- All that is NOT fit to link to

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

palutke (58340) | more than 13 years ago | (#488587)

The solution for your dust problem is to get some sort of filter for your room, to get rid of the dust before it's sucked into your PC. A HEPA filter may be overkill, but it'll sure get rid of the dust.

"growed"? (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 13 years ago | (#488588)

Call me the English police, but since when is "growed" a word? I would have used "grown" in this context.

Fan Speed (2)

MobyDisk (75490) | more than 13 years ago | (#488589)

These micro-fans currently run at 100RPM. My current CPU fan is about 3000RPM. Shouldn't these things be faster since they have a smaller radius, not slower? Sounds like somebody came up with a great trick for making them, but that the methodology does not scale well.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

TWX_the_Linux_Zealot (227666) | more than 13 years ago | (#488590)

hmmm... boiling water with my microprocessor to spin a turbine to make a generator turn... I don't think so...

"Titanic was 3hr and 17min long. They could have lost 3hr and 17min from that."

Re:Pedantry (1)

Tower (37395) | more than 13 years ago | (#488591)

>Why is HTML the default??

You can reset that default in your user prefs.

It is too bad that most of the slashdot readership caint ferm gud sentanses if there live dependsed onit. As usualy, the greater the size of the community, the lower the average IQ level. Oh, well [/useless bitching]

Mr. Chips rocked.

Re:What about (1)

BMazurek (137285) | more than 13 years ago | (#488592)

Or, before even replacing them there is always the squeaky/humming/buzzing fan problem. Now, you'll have 8-10 squeaky/humming/buzzing fans, each sounding different.

I can sense my brain exploding already.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (2)

Enigma2175 (179646) | more than 13 years ago | (#488593)

A related idea would be to make some sort of heat exchanger that'd simultaneously cool the cpu and warm your room. With lots of machines, that could save a lot in heating costs.

We already have such a "heat exchanger" -- it's the heatsink and fan already on your CPU. And yes, it does put out quite a bit of heat. The 7 computers in my bedroom keep it pretty toasty, way warmer than the rest of the house. The power source and hard drive contribute quite a bit to the amount of heat that comes out, but I think a significant amount of heat comes from the 9 CPUs.


Re:What about (1)

Lizard_King (149713) | more than 13 years ago | (#488594)

good point. I also wonder how resilient these microscopic fans could be. A computer has to be expected to withstand a few jolts/kicks/bumps and still function normally. A new technology such as this may bring about dramatic case redesign (yeah modders!)

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

quincyq (267393) | more than 13 years ago | (#488595)

Ahhh, near Worcester ? :)

Silent Hard Drives Here? (1)

Dr. Transparent (77005) | more than 13 years ago | (#488596)

I've been using a Maxtor 75G 7200RPM Drive for about 6 months now. I swear, you can't hear the drive. I've turned everything else off in the room and still the hum of the fan is the only thing you can hear.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

morpheux (150335) | more than 13 years ago | (#488597)

Easy take two piees of different metal join together at one end, place end in a warn plece t'other in a cool place and a potential will be genreated. It's called a thermocouple.

Re:can they.. (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#488598)

or perhaps we could encourage french people to turn these t-shirts inside out.

Re:Good Feng Shui (1)

_UnderTow_ (86073) | more than 13 years ago | (#488599)

how about explaining what feng shui is to those of us who haven't been smoking pot since we were old enough to hold a joint in our mouths.

or perhaps what a harmful shar is.

Certain computers have lost their fans already! (1)

irn_bru (209849) | more than 13 years ago | (#488600)

Now, if you'll excuse the terrible pun, surely the industry should be moving towards leaner, more efficient processors.

Has anyone ever measured the AMD Athlon's contribution to global warming through both its excessive voltage requirements and heat dissipation.

I've been waiting for someone to bring out a 5 1/4" Toasted Sandwitch drive module for my overclocked dream machine. I doubt it would even need a heating element...

Man, I've hardly had the heating on this winter.

overlooked... (1)

tupawk (220841) | more than 13 years ago | (#488601)

Anyone have an idea about how much noise would be generated by a ton of these fans all going at 1 million revolutions per minute?? It seems to me that it has the potential to be even noiser than what we have now.

(OT) - Growed? (1)

rangek (16645) | more than 13 years ago | (#488602)

Come on... are we all five here? This is just ridiculous.

Re:Reversable logic (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#488603)

wow, an AC with something useful to say. Would this [] be what you're talking about? Don't worry, the market for vogue computing technology will open wide up when we try to squeeze those last ten years out of silicon.

Hearing problems due to computers (1)

barzok (26681) | more than 13 years ago | (#488604)

Taco brings up an interesting point - computers do get noisy, and it's a dull, droning noise. Standing in our server room one day last week, I got to thinking about the noise level and type of noise being generated. I wonder if long-term exposure to it without protection would lead to partial hearing loss, maybe in particular frequency ranges? Might we see OSHA regs on the amount of noise put out by desktops, and required hearing protection in a room with more than X boxes per square foot?

Re:Why not collect that heat? (4)

bmongar (230600) | more than 13 years ago | (#488605)

The laws of thermodynamics do not prevent the useful collection of waste heat. What they prevent is achieving 100% efficiency by doing so because your collection and transformation system will loose some heat, not create necessarily create heat

Re:There are two fanless computers already (2)

banky (9941) | more than 13 years ago | (#488606)

Apple's promotional literature for the newest releases (Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage?) still loudly and proudly proclaims no fan, no way. Since the case design is unchanged from the original Bondi Blue models, where did they put it? I can't seem to find it.

Noise Good (3)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#488607)

Now if they could just make hard drives silent, we finally could hear ourselves think in a room with 3-4 computers

Fan noise does have an upside, though. In my home office I find that the noise from my SparcUltra10, 2 Regular PC's, Rackmount PC, and 3 laptops drowns out the noise of my wife :)

If the room were silent, I would probably have to respond to her calls to come down and take out the trash or something.

What he didn't mention... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#488608)

My computer has 12 fans

...becuase I need to compensate for the load that my Windows 2000 box puts on the CPU.

Re:(OT) - Growed? (2)

BrK (39585) | more than 13 years ago | (#488609)

It's a well-known fact, anyone that picks on spelling/grammar is a Big Poo Poo Head.

Re:There are two fanless computers already (2)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 13 years ago | (#488610)

The new iMacs do not have fans.

Ack! (1)

dr_db (202135) | more than 13 years ago | (#488611)

My finger is caught in the fans!

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

stilwebm (129567) | more than 13 years ago | (#488612)

My computers have heat exchangers that simultaneously cool the cpu and warm the room. They are called heat sinks, with fans helping distribute the warm air throughout the room. A 300W system (assuming it's using all 300W) is just over 1000BTUs... In fact, Sun lists the BTUs for just about all their systems so users can anticipate external cooling needs in their datacenter/noc.

fans are great, but better chipmaking is the way (1)

Calimus (43046) | more than 13 years ago | (#488613)

Micro fans are pretty cool, they definitly show that over time, everything gets smaller in th IT world. But let's face it, we don't need armies of micro fans cooling our hardware. What we need are better built chips that use less watts and produce less heat. Transmeta's Crusoe processor is a pretty good example. This is the direction we really need to move in. However, it's also nice to know that for the things that will never be able to go low heat, that there is a immerging solution on the way.

Re:What about (1)

Geeky Frignit (232507) | more than 13 years ago | (#488614)

Oh, this is an easy one. Just go pick up a tube of microfan nanotech assemblers and sprinkle them on your CPU. These little buggers go to work and fix any of the broken fans that they find, and then turn into dust which is then cleaned up by the nano-vacuumcleaners that are automatically generated by your computer every twelve hours.

Re:There are two fanless computers already (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#488615)

Do they also proudly proclaim style > substance? I watched a movie today and, with true product placement style, the lead character buys an Apple iBook. She then goes into a bar and orders a Pepsi. Ladies and gentlement of the jury, I rest my case.

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

_J_ (30559) | more than 13 years ago | (#488616)

according to this Slashdot Poll [] you are above average. I wonder if the spread has changed any since. I'm at seven myself.


In other news... (3)

Amigori (177092) | more than 13 years ago | (#488617)

Today in London, researchers have successfully grown a pig that can fly. Dr. Smith and his team of farmers and genetic engineers combined the growth pattern of microfans with the pigs skin and hooves. "We were just trying to create a 'Cool' pig," Dr. Smith noted. "Our team didn't think the fans were powerful enough to lift the pig off the ground."

University of Colorado researchers state they never had the intention of using these micro fans outside of the computer world. Apparently, they underestimated the creative will of some insane scientists.

Protestors outside the research facility held up signs saying, "It's the end of the world! Pigs are flying!"


Seriously though, I think they are "cool" and can't wait until I can buy a chip with them on it. Hopefully, they will sell sheets of these fans to the consumer market. Plus, these could have great influency on small computer designs in which the heat could be dissapated more quickly and efficiently.


Duck! No, that's a pig flying!

Re:What about (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 13 years ago | (#488618)

Actually, it's a pretty easy replacement. All you do is you get an aftermarket fan to plop on your CPU like you do now, and everything will be beautiful again.

Re:OK, (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 13 years ago | (#488619)

Funny, whenever I go out to the country, it's the silence that drives me nuts. I've grown accustomed to the hum and whizz of PC's and barely notice the noise anymore. I know it's there, but it doesn't disturb me. The noise is actually something of a status indicator. When I hear the fan speed up ever so slightly, I know Apache is taking a beating.

I can just sit in a server room for hours sipping Jolt and tweaking the shitty vbscript pages and ActiveX modules the IT guys throw at me all day long. I don't get headaches, my ears are perfectly fine and I can still tell the difference between a CD burned from mp3 vs the real thing.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

pm5k (162314) | more than 13 years ago | (#488620)

dude, i forget which law (im bout 2 years removed from my physics class) but i do recall a law that stated energy cannot be created or destroyed (law of conservation of energy)

Re:There are two fanless computers already (2)

dhovis (303725) | more than 13 years ago | (#488621)

Au contraire. Apple did change the case design. They removed a lot of metal from inside the original Bondi blue (and first generation fruit-flavored) iMacs. The case is more round and bulbous than the original iMac, it was just subtle enough that nobody would notice unless you sat two next to each other. This change came about with the release of the first DV iMacs (DVD-ROM and Firewire). Quick rule of thumb: if an iMac has a slot loading CD or DVD drive, it has no fan.

Re:Hearing problems due to computers (1)

Lonewolf666 (259450) | more than 13 years ago | (#488622)

No need to worry about hearing problems - it takes a LOT of computers to bring the noise level up to 85 dB(A), which is AFAIK considered the maximum noise level one should work under without hearing protection.
Another thing is noise-induced stress as a psychological problem. There is an "ecological" quality label in Germany that actually specifies a maximum noise level (IIRC around 45 dB(a)).
In a job several years ago, I was working on the noise measurements in QA, and boxes with cheap, lousy fans had problems meeting that limit.

What is Feng Shui? (2)

twisty (179219) | more than 13 years ago | (#488623)

To explain: Feng Shui (pronounced "fung shway") are words from Chinese which literally trandslate as "Wind and Water." Primarily, it is used in architecture and decorating to maximize the comfort of how the environment flows.

It has many applications. On one level, it deals with furnishing, landscapes, and building to increase comfort. On another level, more important to the work my wife and I do, it is about removing offensive stimulii, or balancing the qi/chi/whatever-you-call-energy. This does not mean maximizing efficiency in a machine like manner, because having long straight hallways, or doors evenly opposite each other in halls, can "point" offensive "energy"(noise, flow, stress) at a person.

I've known architects to redirect long hallways, or split them up with fire doors, just to slow the flow of a place into more pleasing directions. Ironically, this seems to parallel electronics in a metaphorical way, balancing "resistances" where an inducer could do harm. Stressful positions, like having your back to the door or world all the time, can make a person paranoid ("Big brother is watching" or "I could be stabbed in the back!"), and such offensive stimulii are called shars , which I think means "poison dart." Feng Shui prescribes remedies, such as having a desk mirror to see who's behind you.

In a world where it's easy to go hard-of-hearing amidst computer equipment, Good Feng Shui should be considered in this design, as it is in any other field of design. Microfans could be far more harmonious, or quiet (yin), than conventional cooling methods.

PS: I've also made little microcontroller "pets" whose LEDs simulate breathing rhythms. It has a cool, soothing energy about it.

Sorry, but all moving parts prone to failure. (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#488624)

If it needs a fan, then that's a sign of a BAD DESIGN. Look at Crusoe chips to see a much higher performance:heat-generation ratio. For me, this is a big issue. I install radio repeater controllers on mountain tops for various communications companies (radio, TV, cellular relay, business 2-way, etc.) And many of these places are accessible ONLY by helicopter... and only when there's no storms. These little block huts on the mountain top are not heated and temperatures can reach -80F easily. Power is often limited or generated on site (with secondary cells to store excess power to cover other times).

Fans are out in this environment. Fans gunk up with dust and die. And a trip to fix it costs thousands of dollars. Actually *anything* with moving parts is out. The oil in fan motors and even in hard drive motors can gel up when it gets that cold. So we use solid state flash+static ram drives, and 486/25s that need no fans. Cursoe may finally be the next CPU upgrade because it runs cool without help.

Cooling fan tip (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 13 years ago | (#488625)

Install a big ol' 4" 12 Vdc fan, and run it off a 6 or 8 Vdc power supply - fan is way too big at full voltage, nice, quiet and adaquate air volumn at half power.

Re:Problem: Processors are too hot. (5)

Marcus Aanerud (100936) | more than 13 years ago | (#488626)

The G4 rivals the Pentium in power consumption? Not really. According to Motorola's fact sheets on the PowerPC 7400, it uses an average of 5 watts of power at 400mhz, 11.5 watts max. The PowerPC 7450 (the new version of the G4 used in the 533, 667 and 733mhz models with embedded L2 cache and slightly lower core voltage) uses 14-17 watts of power at 533mhz. The Pentium III, on the other hand, uses anywhere from 30 watts of power to 50 watts for the super-overclocked 1.13ghz recall units. I wasn't able to find any stats on Intel's website or in their datasheets (too much marketing), so that number might not be completely accurate, but I am sure it's much higher than the PowerPC 75xx processor line.

Apple encased the whole G4 processor card in plastic to dampen fan noise? Not really. There IS no processor fan on the new G4 models. There's a huge honkin' heat sink on it (which sits next to the power supply and an external vent when the door's closed), but there is no direct cooling on the processor. So, no, I don't think you've seen a picture of the latest G4. If you had, you wouldn't've claimed they encased the processor in plastic. Wouldn't that defeat the purpose of cooling? Heat can't escape through plastic as easily as it can through air. :)

The hard drive in the latest iMacs don't make that much heat, actually. Apple uses three kinds of hard drives in their latest lines: Maxtor, Seagate, and Quantum. They all run rather cool, with the Quantum being the hottest of them all (this is all subjective, and I haven't scientifically measured this stuff). The Seagate drives are definitely the quietest, though. :) The processor is one component that stays really cool. The heat sink for the processor happens to be the entire metal shield between the logic board and the Analog/Video/Power board. This shield has lots of holes in it that air goes through. It's quite an interesting and practical design. The monitor makes most of the heat, but since the tube is several inches away from the bottom of the iMac, there's plenty of room for heat to move up away from the components, sucking lots of cool air over the expensive stuff (logic board, hard drive, etc...) on the bottom of the computer. I admit it's not the coolest design, but considering what it is, it works really well.

The micro fans might be nice on paper, but how long do readers think it'll take for MAJOR chip vendors to implement them? The heatsink/fan combo has been with us for as long as I can remember, and considering how cheap and easy it is, I don't see it changing that much very soon. We need cooler processors, not better fans/heatsinks.

Path of least resistance, I guess.

Here's a Pentium III Datasheet. If anyone can find the wattage for the P3 in this marketing mess, I'd appreciate knowing it: 526407.pdf []

Here's a PowerPC 7400 Datasheet: SORS/32_BIT/POWERPC/MPC7XX/MPC7400FACT.pdf []

And here's a PowerPC 7450 datasheet: df []

Re:Fan Speed (1)

hfukuda (157177) | more than 13 years ago | (#488627)

Not really. RPM is angular velocity, which dosen't change like linear velocity. Linear velocity changes depending on how far away you are from the center (hence CAV CD-ROM drives read data faster from the edges).

Re:OK, (2)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 13 years ago | (#488628)

actually I've always been afraid of "the country". A number of times I've gone out to a rural area and almost gone insane during the day. It's just so quiet! I find it hard to maintain a single line of thought in my head without background noise. During the night it's a different story. Trying to sleep in a rural town is totally dependant on the whether anyone has mowed the lawn that day. If they have, you lie in your bed totally incapable of falling asleep. You have no problem falling which is how I feel in complete silence. If the lawn hasn't been mowed that day you have the standard background noise of traffic replaced with crickets and other green what-have-you's. I dont know how people can stand it. Give me the sweet background noise of traffic and an occasional tram. There is only two other background noises that I can stand. A fan in summer or a thunder storm. But even a thunder storm in the country is ruined by the constant croaking of frogs.

Microfans won't reduce the noise (1)

mairas (102089) | more than 13 years ago | (#488629)

I doubt those microfans really would reduce the noise generated by the fans. First of all, the efficiency of air cooling is determined mainly by the volume velocity of the airflow, and you'll still have to blow the same amount of air with the microfan technology -- with fans with no aerodynamic/acoustic design. Size of the fan does matter, though. Usually bigger is better (quieter). Blade noise is easier to handle with big, slowly rotating blades. Microfans seem to move into opposite direction, suggesting they might be even noisier than conventional fans.

There are ways to get rid of the noise, though. This site [] is a good starting point for screwing that silencer on your PC. Particularly, there was an interesting link to a Korean company [] , which is going to introduce a free-flow refridgeration system for computers. With that, you can throw away every (except the power source) fan from your computer. Hopefully it'll work as well as they tell.

Re:above should be moderated up. (2)

deglr6328 (150198) | more than 13 years ago | (#488630)

New Scientist is a joke. If /. reporting on science wants to approach anything near journalistic integrity when it comes to science, they should be very wary of refrencing the infamous new scientist. The magazine will constantly publish any story they think will be the most sensationalistic, seemingly without even an attempt at fact checking. They still do stories touting so called cold fusion BS as "just around the corner" to providing the worlds energy. Other stories for instance on EMF's and cancer are totally biased and even get into using scare tactics to sell more copies. According to James Randi New Scientist even ran articles in the 70's and early 80's touting the validity of DOWSING! pardon but this magazine is almost total shit.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

ocelotbob (173602) | more than 13 years ago | (#488631)

It's been done, but usually it's been in bizarre experiments that wind up on quickie pages of large weblogs [] ; a few months ago there was a story of a guy who used the heat from his CPU to distill alcohol. Although, I think you may be on to something for large tech buildings here. Have large fans pipe air over all the CPUs in the server farm and use the heated air in the rest of the building. But a home user with a PC or two wouldn't be able to heat a very large space.

Re:Why not collect that heat? (2)

Kishar (83244) | more than 13 years ago | (#488632)

The three laws of Thermodynamics, made easy:
1) You can't get anything done without working for it.
2) The most you can accomplish by working is to break even.
3) You can only break even at absolute zero.


(From the original story) "growed"? Is that a word?

Re:OK, (1)

kiwaiti (95197) | more than 13 years ago | (#488633)

I dimly recall hearing about anti-sound. IIRC, it could more easily be achieved by hollow tubes reflecting part of the signal and retransmitting it at -1, but that would require knowledge of the frequency you want to suppress etc...


Re:Why not collect that heat? (1)

Weh (219305) | more than 13 years ago | (#488634)

Huh ?

Thermodynamics (first law) says that energy is neither created nor destroyed. So how can the universe 'lose' energy ?

According to the second law of Thermodynamics heat will flow only in one direction when there is no external work done on it (from hot to cold obviously). Applied to the universe this means that the universe tends to 'even out' temperature differences until an equilibrium is reached.

The Carnot corollaries to the second law state that the amount of work obtained from a system between 2 thermal reservoirs is bound by a maxiumum efficiency. This efficiency is directly related to the temprature difference

All in all it means that if you have a certain amount of heat at a high (absolute) temperature the work that can be obtained from it is much higher than work obtained from the same amount of heat at lower temprature. After heat (witout losing it's energy) reaches a certain temprature, it becomes virtually useless because everything in it's surroundings is the same temprature

The heat from fans is at a relatively (to the surroundings) low temprature (low quality heat) and so the potential for work being done is very small due to the low theoretical maxiumum Carnot efficiency.

Re:Big fans (2)

atrowe (209484) | more than 13 years ago | (#488635) []

This site specializes in almost silent power supplies and processor fans. I've got several in my various systems, and I can personally vouch that they're all that they claim and more.

Disclaimer: I don't work for these people.

Fan noise?? (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 13 years ago | (#488636)

Try sitting in my server room with the plexi doors on the racks open.

10 compaq proliant 3000 servers (ML530 now) sound like you stuck your head in a jet engine.

I see uses for silent hardware, like a library. But then you don't have to resort to exotic hardware to achive this. Just placing the computer in a closed case that is well ventilated or purchasing a premiuim enclosure in the first place. (Hard drives on rubber isolation mounts, and soft material grids on fan openings with rubber isolation mounts on the fans) make a huge difference. Try it. add rubber o rings around the mounting screws and then dont tighten them down so hard. makes a big difference. a little bit of engineering can achive huge changes.

and how do we get air to these fans? (1)

hfukuda (157177) | more than 13 years ago | (#488637)

If these fans are grown on the silicon, how exactly do we get air to these fans? Silicon is too fragile, so they get encased in epoxy, which is what we see. I've never actually seen a chip with the silicon exposed other than showcase models.

So what are they going to do? Drill little holes in the casing? That'll do wonders for manufacturing costs, I'm sure.

The best fan design... (1)

cluening (6626) | more than 13 years ago | (#488638)

The best fan design I have ever seen was on my roommate last year's machine made by the wonderful Packard Bell company. I'm not sure what they were thinking when they did it, but they put 2 differently sized fans, one on top of the other, onto his processor to cool it. It was a socket design processor, so the first fan was the normal size of the processor, and then stacked on top of that fan's lower-left two thirds was a second, smaller fan. It was _really_ odd...

Growed (1)

Fastball (91927) | more than 13 years ago | (#488639)

I knew some people who growed some microjuana in their window sills. I growed but one microinch in high school. George W. Bush will be a full-growed adult male in four years.

apparently Commander Taco has Dog hearing, or.. (1)

pezpunk (205653) | more than 13 years ago | (#488640)

maybe he's still using an 80086 (kaCHUNK kaCHUNK kaCHUNK kaCHUNK kaCHUNK "bad command or file name")

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488641)

nah, actually right in between Boston and Worcester.

the comforting hum (1)

TShrew (118512) | more than 13 years ago | (#488642)

But I can't sleep anymore without the hum of computers in the background. And the best place in the office is in the server room with the hum of several computers as the only sound. I think it is kinda like the same reason you put a clock in the basket with a puppy you just bring home, to simulate the sounds of the womb. So don't take away all the noise or I will be lost..... -TShrew

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

AFCArchvile (221494) | more than 13 years ago | (#488643)

Nothing's wrong. I'm just a fan of fans.

Re:one meg rpm? (1)

mrfiddlehead (129279) | more than 13 years ago | (#488644)

Two words: surface area

Re:OK, (1)

MKalus (72765) | more than 13 years ago | (#488645)

Quite frankly every since I moved to North America I am surprised how loud Trucks and Buses ARE here.

I mean looking back to where I come from, Mercedes-Benz was testdriving a new bus that was running on an alternate Fuel Source (don't ask, I don't know, maybe Hydrogene?) and people complained it was too loud, but compared to an average Bus here in Toronto this bus was whispering.

Noise is one thing... (2)

ackthpt (218170) | more than 13 years ago | (#488646)

Dust is another. How propose you cleaning the dust out of microfans? Or do you assume these only for clean rooms?

I could knit a sweater out of the dust I've cleaned out of fans over the past 3 years.


Re:fans are great, but better chipmaking is the wa (1)

Calimus (43046) | more than 13 years ago | (#488647)

Apple may have a fanless system, but the heat is still there. Not as much as there used to be, there has been progress made. Only real problem is, not everyone wants a Mac. Alot can be learned from Mac as well though, thanks for pointing out that the pc market isn't the only onw ith low power/heat offerings

Re:OK, (1)

cylab (217151) | more than 13 years ago | (#488648)

so it is and i think it is in the queue.

a week ago i saw a (german) telecast (nano on 3sat) [] about adaptronic. the essence of this technology is to create materials that react to deformation in an intelligent way. one application mentioned was to counteract vibration which is the cause for most of the noise produced by vehicles.

one idea is to use piezo-electric wires in composite materials which act as sensors . the produced signals hold information about the deformation. after an analysis, apropriate electric current is put back through the wires and cause a deformation, which counterbalances the first one.

No thnaks (1)

John Jorsett (171560) | more than 13 years ago | (#488649)

Personally, I'm not very enthusiastic about having moving parts in the most expensive component in my system, unless they're guaranteed not to reduce the chip life. I just had to get my video card replaced after 6 months due to a faulty fan. And it's tough enough cleaning the crud out of my normal-size fans. How am I going to do it with microfans?

Re:I like my loud computer. (1)

Kishar (83244) | more than 13 years ago | (#488650)

Screw Home Depot?
They use Linux!

Re:Problem: Processors are too hot. (1)

Howie (4244) | more than 13 years ago | (#488651)

Page 50 (PDF page 50) of hts/24445208.pdf [] has Thermal Specs.

Page 28 has the current requirements for Vcc/Icc. Up to 23A for the core at 1.13Ghz!!

At 2V Vcc, that's 46W, n'est pas?

Does anyone know of a small, sensible desktop platform based around the SA1110 [] ? I'd like an NCD/Corel Netwinder sixed system with one of these. Low power, quiet, and quite a lot of interesting gadgetry. Sort of an X terminal on steroids, with sound, USB, etc. It looks like you should be able to build them for about $400 or so (no disk).
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