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The Little Chill

April 17, 2008
Dime-sized fan is ready for testing as cooling system for laptop computers.

Researchers are ready to test a miniature device they say will help laptop computers and other electronic devices chill out. The compact, solid-state fan -- only slightly larger than a dime -- produces three times the flow rate of a typical small mechanical fan at one-fourth the size, according to the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NSF's Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program provided support for development of the fan.

More specifically, the device creates an air flow of 2.4 meters per second. It's being touted as a "silent, ultra-thin, low-power and low-maintenance" solution to the heating problems that plague laptops. "This technology has the power to cool a 25-watt chip with a device smaller than one cubic centimeter and can someday be integrated into silicon to make self-cooling chips," says Dan Schlitz of Thorrn Micro Technologies.

The RSD5 solid state fan is the result of six years of work by Schlitz and fellow researcher Vishal Singhal, also of Thorrn Micro Technologies. It incorporates a series of live wires that generate a microscale plasma (an ion-rich gas that has free electrons that conduct electricity), according to the NSF. The wires lie within uncharged conducting plates that are contoured into half-cylindrical shapes to partially envelop the wires. Within the resulting electrical field, ions push neutral air molecules from the wire to the place, generating a wind.

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