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Sandia's Floating, Dust-Free, Spinning Heatsink

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the cooler-cool dept.

Hardware 307

An anonymous reader writes "Sandia Research Laboratory believes it has come up with a much more efficient solution than heatsink-fan cooling a CPU that simply combines the heatsink and fan components into a single unit. What you effectively get is a spinning heatsink. The new design is called the Sandia Cooler. It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor. Sandia claim this setup is extremely efficient at drawing heat away from the chip, in the order of 30x more efficient than your typical heatsink-fan setup. The Sandia Cooler works by using a hydrodynamic air bearing. What that means is when it spins up the cooler actually becomes self supporting and floats above the chip (hence the thousandth of an inch clearance). Cool air is drawn down the center of the cooler and then ejected at the edges of the fins taking the heat with it. And as the whole unit spins, you aren't going to get dust build up (ever)."

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307 comments

Thousandth of an inch (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441373)

It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor

What could possibly go wrong? Seems like a pretty tight tolerance with all the vibration that could occur in a server room.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (0)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about a year ago | (#40441473)

I know, right? And when it loses power for one reason or another, does it just fall onto the top of the bare CPU it 'floats' above as it spins down? Boy, that sounds healthy for a CPU...

Re:Thousandth of an inch (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441563)

Actually read the article, the spinning heatsink is attached to a base plate. It DOES NOT sit directly on a CPU die.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (5, Funny)

AngryDeuce (2205124) | about a year ago | (#40441661)

There's an article?!

Re:Thousandth of an inch (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441847)

There's a video too. It has 45 likes and 117 dislikes. Apparently Sandia sucks at making videos. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGpV_VPUn8g&feature=youtu.be

Re:Thousandth of an inch (5, Informative)

msauve (701917) | about a year ago | (#40441891)

It's OK. Not even the editor read the article, or they would have seen it was from 9 months ago.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442051)

I just read slashdot for the pictures.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441937)

from the looks of it (pics only) at a 1000th of an inch it will end up in contact with the CPU die eventually (for example the base plate will get out of tolerance in relation to the cpu and where does it bolt to that will be vibration free to these high tolerances - the motherboard?) - ur also going to get dust in between the 'blades' of the spinning heat sink from the looks of it.

Hope it works but I'm not going to hold my breath.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441981)

I have a better idea: just spin the motherboard 'round and 'round -- not only will my patent-pending idea cool the CPU it will cool everything else too!

Re:Thousandth of an inch (2)

jlar (584848) | about a year ago | (#40441975)

From TFA it is clear that the spinning heatsink has a hole in the middle and that it is actually this hole which is situated over the CPU while the surrounding part of the cooler rests on a structure made for that. So the spinning heatsink will never touch the CPU.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (2)

edibobb (113989) | about a year ago | (#40441685)

And my PC will have dust plugging that .001 inch.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (3, Insightful)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#40442005)

And my PC will have dust plugging that .001 inch.

That's my problem .. I built my PC in a not-at-all clean room and it runs there. Dust rhinos abound.

But if you're Sandia, you probably have air filters, bunny suits, everything to ensure the dust remains far from your spinning heatsink. Because, unlike you and I, Sandia have money.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441725)

What do you call a thousandth of an inch? A "milliinch?"

I thought an inch was divided by 2's powers. So shouldn't that be a 1,024th of an inch?

Re:Thousandth of an inch (4, Funny)

skids (119237) | about a year ago | (#40442161)

No no no, you have to work a factor of 3 in there to be truly english.

So try 1/12/12/8 == 1/1152. And call it an eighth-undergross just to be cretinous.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (4, Informative)

RogL (608926) | about a year ago | (#40442249)

Ask someone who's worked in a USA machine-shop: it's called a thousandth (the "of an inch" part is implied).
Machinists are not programmers, so beyond about 1/64" they switch to thousandths.
Below that, tenths (ten-thousandths of an inch).
Below that, millionths.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (3, Informative)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#40441969)

It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor

What could possibly go wrong? Seems like a pretty tight tolerance with all the vibration that could occur in a server room.

Read up a little on the science of Hard Disc Drives - heads usually rode on air, just above the platter surface. Same effect could be employed here.

CS REtard (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441987)

It spins at just 2,000 RPM and sits a thousandth of an inch above the processor

What could possibly go wrong? Seems like a pretty tight tolerance with all the vibration that could occur in a server room.

Nothing .

That's why you're a CS retard and NOT an engineer.

Arrogance begets arrogance fuck-tard.

Re:Thousandth of an inch (2)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#40442103)

Why would it be a problem? The cooler consists of the spinning part resting on a heat spreader plate (it floats just off of the plate when spinning). The plate sits on a standard thermal transfer pad which sits on the CPU. Where are you seeing a problem that every other cpu fan in the known universe doesn't have?

Contrarian thinking (5, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | about a year ago | (#40441393)

I'm reminded of the rotary engine [wikipedia.org] , used in some WWI aircraft. The crankshaft was stationary -- attached to the plane's firewall -- and the entire engine block, including the cylinders, rotated around it. (The propeller was attached to the engine block.) In this way, no flywheel was necessary (the block was its own flywheel), saving weight, and the engine was cooled naturally, by the air flow over the moving cylinders. I don't know how the engines were balanced.

In a similar manner, the Sandia Cooler moves the heatsink through the air, rather than the air through the heatsink. It's solving a different problem, but I've always been fond of contrarian thinking like this.

PC fans too (1)

OrangeTide (124937) | about a year ago | (#40441575)

The stator (the stationary part) of a DC brushless motor found in a typical case fan is the shaft in the center, while the outside (the rotor) part spins the hub of the fan. Not unlike those old aircraft engines.

Re:Contrarian thinking (4, Interesting)

140Mandak262Jamuna (970587) | about a year ago | (#40441781)

The main idea was not to save the flywheel weight, but to cool the engine when the aircraft is not moving. These air cooled engines have fins on the engine block to radiate the heat away. At flight speeds at high altitude cooling is not an issue. But sitting on the runway, idling, these engine blocks would melt. So they decided to spin the cylinders instead of the crank shaft.

But such a heavy rotating mass makes for very unusual handling. When a small force is applied to a spinning disk in one direction a very large reaction happens in the mutually perpendicular third direction. Some fighter pilots would use it to make very very tight left turns, (or a right turn depending on the spin). Sometimes they would use two banks of cylinders counter rotating. Or two engines counter rotating to balance the angular momentum.

Re:Contrarian thinking (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441923)

Why not keep the fans still and instead rotate the cpu ? Spinning the whole computer at 2000 rpm would also help with ventilation...

until it crashes (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441401)

I remember the hard drive of lore: say like a 10MB CDC Hawk drive: 5MB fixed and 5MB removable platter.

The head floated on a cushion of air above the media.

When, for whatever reason, (bump, mild quake, etc.) the head no longer floated on that cushion of air, the resulting crash made a most impressive noise, rather like a freight train through the computer room.

Re:until it crashes (1)

ackthpt (218170) | about a year ago | (#40442099)

I remember the hard drive of lore: say like a 10MB CDC Hawk drive: 5MB fixed and 5MB removable platter.

The head floated on a cushion of air above the media.

When, for whatever reason, (bump, mild quake, etc.) the head no longer floated on that cushion of air, the resulting crash made a most impressive noise, rather like a freight train through the computer room.

Yep, good old physics. In my green days I was a system admin, for the last few years of a DEC PDP-11/55 with a couple of big ol' RP04 drives. With a sliding transparent top, I could watch the heads go into the disc pack when I spun it up (after swapping out packs OOF!) The field service techs knew something of the physics and explained to me - the heads, when the first are launced into the packs make a very brief contact with the disc surface of each platter before the cushion of air molecules forced them up, to effectively surf just above the platter. Amazing something so darn big did something like that and you could watch it.

Of course, when a head bit into the drive (head crash) you ended up with a cascading effect of emulsion flying all over in there and causing the other heads to lose their air cushion and bite it, too.

BBC (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441403)

I looooove big, black cock in my ass.

No buildup, ever... except when you turn it off. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441405)

And I bet when you turn it back on it gets clogged and jammed pretty good, and then you can kiss your CPU goodbye!
g=

Re:No buildup, ever... except when you turn it off (2)

sudden.zero (981475) | about a year ago | (#40441749)

Turn it off? Who turns their computers off? Uptime: 3481 day(s), 6 hour(s), 33 minute(s) :P

Re:No buildup, ever... except when you turn it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442241)

What? You haven't even reached a decade of uptime?

Re:No buildup, ever... except when you turn it off (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442133)

You don't need to worry about it jamming because smash and bake the CPU the first time you turn it off.

Geez, another duplicate? (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441411)

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/07/12/1348243/the-fanless-spinning-heatsink

Can we get some new editors??

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (1)

localman57 (1340533) | about a year ago | (#40441465)

Yeah, also, TFA actually includes a publication date: 9/29/2011 . But hey, at least it isn't the "What's The Best way for me to store my Baby Pictures for 10,000 years" AskSlashdot again...

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441505)

And patent dates of '08...

Oh well.

I should go look up articles from 6/25/02 & start resubmitting them...

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (5, Funny)

Volante3192 (953645) | about a year ago | (#40441839)

That's amazing!

Hey, everyone! We landed on the moon!!

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (1)

canajin56 (660655) | about a year ago | (#40441971)

Researchers have made a breakthrough in a new stick-based ignition source. If further development pans out, this could end reliance on lightning strikes as the only source of fire.

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442037)

Come join today's new hip activity, breathing air! Try it along with refreshing beaches. Beaches, for all your evolution needs.

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442141)

News just in, all the cool kids are doing what is know an "cellular division". Parents & government worried about the threat to society.

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442067)

Food goes in the mouth.

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (1)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about a year ago | (#40442315)

Researchers have made a breakthrough in a new stick-based ignition source. If further development pans out, this could end reliance on foreign lightning strikes as the only source of fire.

FTFY.

You think that's something, wait until you see what futuristic discoveries we've been making in Stick-and-Rock technologies...

Re:Geez, another duplicate? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442395)

also, what is "Sandia Research Laboratory"? Is that like Sandia National Laboratories?

dust (5, Interesting)

Shotgun (30919) | about a year ago | (#40441415)

But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

Re:dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441591)

Exactly. My computer runs continuously until its time for its scheduled cleaning. My fans still have dust on the forward side of the blades.

Re:dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441633)

The sandia cooler acts like a hurricane/tornado, but in reverse. It draws the air in like a vortex. Instead of straight down over the use of several blades pulling the air in. Thus the dust will not end up on the blades, eventually it will coat the Chip, and POOF instant fire hazard.

Simple logic

Unless of course they figured out a filter system that traps dust on a cotton mesh or something.
https://encrypted-tbn1.google.com/images?q=tbn:ANd9GcSYp-54v3Ltn32_XxggFKLDME_bbJGkzIypIZFO4PD1jiWDRQcK

Great concept, bad idea. I think this will do more harm than good in the long run

Re:dust (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441821)

And as the whole unit spins, you aren't going to get dust build up (ever)

none really?

I think not. Dust is not just 1 thing it is made of of LOTS of things. You smoke? Different kind of dust than what you get if you have cats or dogs, or live in a dry dusty area, or a smogy area, or get a lot of pollen ...

Then on top of that it is different sizes. Then different textures... some is gooy other fine powder. Just depends on what the dust is. Then even if you put a filter over it that only works for a small amount of time. How many people clean those out on a regular bases?...

If it depends on the layer of air they are talking about then it better have a decent filter and expect lots of seized fans...

Re:dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442091)

Thanks for reminding me I need to change the AC filters!

Re:dust (3, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | about a year ago | (#40441913)

But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

Your blades also have hundreds of millimeters of clearance between them, not fractions of a millimeter. As well, dust requires an electric charge to stick to something... plastic has a very large static charge that 'grabs' the dust... use a different material and the charge is neutral. Problem solved.

Re:dust (3, Informative)

adisakp (705706) | about a year ago | (#40442011)

But...all my fans get a layer of dust on each fan blade. What are they doing differently that will stop this?

If you watch the video, one of the heatsink's designers specifically says that when the device is spinning quickly (at 2,000 RPM), any dust particles that land on the device get flung off by centrifugal force.

Re:dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442155)

That's great! Now how does it work when the PC is turned off?

Re:dust (2)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year ago | (#40442339)

Exactly this is why my metal house fan doesn't have dust on it... wait, it does, and it spins @ 1.75 kRPM.

Interesting concept, but... (-1)

DSS11Q13 (1853164) | about a year ago | (#40441417)

Just what does this heatsink/fan attach to? Wouldn't one have to bore a hole directly through the CPU? Also sounds like it would be pretty fragile...

This won't prevent dust buildup (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441421)

...at the air inlets and exits. And the way laptop coolers are designed, that is the primary problem I have encountered.

Will it work in laptops? (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441425)

Given the possibility of dynamic movement of a laptop during its use, will the Sandia Cooler work inside of a laptop?

Re:Will it work in laptops? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about a year ago | (#40441611)

I doubt it would even work well on desktops - you think it's bad when some heavy-footed passerby causes your angels foodcake to collapse...

Re:Will it work in laptops? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441681)

Cool, my computers only ever experience static movement.

Re:Will it work in laptops? (1)

Metabolife (961249) | about a year ago | (#40442253)

I honestly hope that within 1 year, we won't need laptop coolers for anything but the desktop replacements.

Was interesting (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441445)

the first time around too.

http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/07/12/1348243/the-fanless-spinning-heatsink

Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441477)

Umm, why do the blades on my fan gather dust? They are spinning too. No dust, me no beLIEve.

Re:Oh really? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441655)

Umm, why do the blades on my fan gather dust?

Clean your room, maybe that'll give your mom a chance to vacuum in there once in a while.

Startup/Heat Transfer (2, Interesting)

ThunderBird89 (1293256) | about a year ago | (#40441495)

Maybe I just didn't get the message, but what draws heat away from the die itself? This setup probably does away with thermal paste and similar junctions...

The other thing is that hydrodynamic bearings are only self-supporting and quasi-frictionless after a threshold RPM is reached. Before the whole setup is spinning fast enough for hydrodynamic effects to take over, it's going to grind against the chip die, and unless they came up with something good, it's going to destroy it on startup...

oomph (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441615)

"unless they came up with something good"

you mean a spring and a clutch?

Why do armchair engineers assume it is their duty to enlighten the rest of us knuckle-draggers that actually do this for a living?

Re:oomph (1)

kylegordon (159137) | about a year ago | (#40441901)

It's almost as if they didn't bother reading the fscking article. Oh no, it's the editors that ignore minor details like that!

Re:Startup/Heat Transfer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441723)

The air-gap is so small, it does not act as an insulator--its actually a very good conductor of heat.

The air itself is the thermal interface.

One of those odd-ball, exception to the general rule, thermodynamic things

Re:Startup/Heat Transfer (2)

Bill_the_Engineer (772575) | about a year ago | (#40442025)

I don't see anything in the very in-depth video that was linked in the summary that would indicate that no thermal paste would be needed. The air-gap is between the heat sink chassis (or base plate) and the spinning heat sink, and appears to be a very efficient means of expelling heat from the device. However there will need to be some kind of thermal interface between the chassis and the CPU.

Maybe one day we'll see this heat sink assembly actually integrated into the CPU packaging which would eliminate the need for thermal paste. I think it's a neat concept and if people actually watched the video they would also understand how dust build up is being minimized.

Re:Startup/Heat Transfer (4, Informative)

kylegordon (159137) | about a year ago | (#40441815)

Maybe I just didn't get the message, but what draws heat away from the die itself? This setup probably does away with thermal paste and similar junctions...

From the video... there's a normal heatsink, and the fan draws the heat from the heatsink through the air bearing.

The other thing is that hydrodynamic bearings are only self-supporting and quasi-frictionless after a threshold RPM is reached. Before the whole setup is spinning fast enough for hydrodynamic effects to take over, it's going to grind against the chip die, and unless they came up with something good, it's going to destroy it on startup...

It's Sandia... I'm sure they've thought of that.

Re:Startup/Heat Transfer (1)

sjames (1099) | about a year ago | (#40442275)

Commonly there's a conventional bearing that disengages once the aerodynamic effects take over (that is, the spinning part lifts off of the bearing).

Deja vu (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441529)

I believe this has already been posted...http://hardware.slashdot.org/story/11/07/12/1348243/the-fanless-spinning-heatsink

Underground bike gears (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441545)

Hey I just had a breakthrough, who needs sandia?

I have invented the underground community bicycle power device. You simply hook your computer up to the chain.

Get to peddling.

But what when it crashes? (0)

Cyfun (667564) | about a year ago | (#40441553)

If I remember correctly, this is the same concept as the head that floats above a hard disk platter. My question is: If something fails or the computer is bumped hard enough, will this processor fan start gouging into the CPU die? Let's find out!

You can never get rid of the dust! (1)

xOneca (1271886) | about a year ago | (#40441637)

Just sayin'

Re:You can never get rid of the dust! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441917)

Well, you could if you make the case positively-pressured. Draw cool air *in* (through a filter) instead of blowing hot air *out*. The case would then be considerably less likely to build up dust.

There are a ton of other efficiency problems to work out, but at least there'd be no dust!

Ever? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441741)

Really? I have fans that spin at those speeds that have dust build up on the blades. Lots of them! I say the cake is a lie!

Does this make Sandia a patent troll? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441771)

Unless they start producing heat sinks on a commercial scale themselves, that is.

2000RPM? (3, Interesting)

sdguero (1112795) | about a year ago | (#40441885)

According to the .pdf linked on the press article, it spins at 5,000 RPM.

Spinning a heat sink that weighs several ounces take a much more powerful motor than a plastic fan. I'd expect it's a to harder on the bearings (i.e. less reliable), and requires a lot more power than a traditional heatsink/fan setup.

Re:2000RPM? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441979)

If it had bearings it would be reasonable to assume it would be harder on them.

Re:2000RPM? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40442265)

I would have to say whatever is rotating there is definitely at 5000rpm, possibly a little less, but not by much.

As someone who is extremely familiar (and sensitive) to noise, and prefers his PCs to be as quiet as possible (but within reason), 2000rpm is acceptable but only under extreme conditions (heavy CPU load thus high temperatures thus higher RPM). 1000rpm or less would be much more reasonable.

If you watch the video (or skim through it and find scenes where the device is spinning), you can hear the noise it emits. It's high-pitch and loud; I stopped watching the video roughly 2 minutes ago and the noise is still resonating in my skull. That kind of constant droning white noise is unacceptable for consumer PC systems.

The noise itself reminds me of some SCSI 10krpm and 15krpm hard disks, as well as some older 7200rpm PATA hard disks, and even an ancient 5.25" MFM hard disk. It's too loud, and is at an uncomfortable frequency. I'm betting they can decrease the noise by adjusting the edges of the fins, much like what fan manufacturers do (companies such as Noctua have patented such designs); you end up with a fan that can run at 2000rpm but sounds more like 750rpm given its fin design. Maybe these guys should hire some submarine propulsion system designers... ;-)

Could see this working but one major drawback. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#40441931)

How will it react if the tower gets jarred? It seems to be good if you can keep it stationary but if the tower is subject to minor movement, it can start damaging it I would think. That will really limit the sale of this.

Re:Could see this working but one major drawback. (1)

Ignacio (1465) | about a year ago | (#40442111)

You mean like it's limited the sale of hard drives?

30x more cooling (2)

sl4shd0rk (755837) | about a year ago | (#40441965)

My CPU normally runs around 140 degrees so at 30x more cooling I should be well into the -4000F range!

Sandia Research Laboratory? (1)

kevmeister (979231) | about a year ago | (#40442045)

Just for the record, the research facility where this work was done is "Sandia National Laboratory", not "Sandia Research Laboratory". Sandia is a research facility funded by the US Department of Energy. Your tax dollars at work (if you pay US taxes).

no dust? unbeleveable (1)

frovingslosh (582462) | about a year ago | (#40442057)

as the whole unit spins, you aren't going to get dust build up (ever).

That seems like a strange comment, since I get dust build-up on faster spinning (and even larger) fan blades, I also have doubts about the heat transfer across an air gap, no silver thermal compound here.

Re:no dust? unbeleveable (1)

wiedzmin (1269816) | about a year ago | (#40442173)

Oh, no the dust will instead build up in the thousandth of an inch gap between the spinny part and the CPU :) Completely different set of problems than what you're used to dealing with! Have fun cleaning that out :)

Shaking or vibration? (1)

Dwedit (232252) | about a year ago | (#40442125)

What happens if the computer shakes or vibrates? Is it going to collide with the CPU at any point?

Target application. (1)

DeTech (2589785) | about a year ago | (#40442259)

Lol, "laptops". Guess what happens to a flywheel spinning at 5k RPM on a air bearing when some rotates their laptop... Sorry sandia national labs, it my world I can't turn physics off.

Dust Free.... yeah right.... (4, Funny)

Lumpy (12016) | about a year ago | (#40442333)

Dear researchers, please notice how dust will cake and adhere to spinning things. Ask the airline industry how dust can cake on even turbine blades.

It's not dust free, please take the marketing people out back and beat them with a sack of doorknobs.

Does it work? (1)

gelfling (6534) | about a year ago | (#40442335)

The article sounds like a summary of a patent application. I wonder if this thing actually exists and more importantly, works and if it works does it work well?

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