Anyone who uses a laptop computer will know just how hot they can get. This overheating can sometimes cause injury, and may even reduce male fertility, if a user fails to notice how hot their machine is getting.
Intel is patenting a solution which uses light to sense when a computer casing is getting too hot, and automatically "throttles back" the power.
Since heating is uneven inside a laptop, with hot spots occurring near power-hungry components, ordinary thermometers are an unreliable way to determine whether someone is risking a scorched lap. Instead, Intel reckons a simple light sensor could provide a much better early warning system.
The inside skin of a laptop is coated with a thermochromic material (one that changes colour in response to temperature). A lamp inside the chassis then continually illuminates this material and a sensor measures the colour of the reflected light – from cold green to warm red.
This provides a temperature reading for the part in direct contact with the user's lap. The sensor closely monitors any change and, when it starts getting too warm, software activates a fan to cool things down. At a higher temperature threshold the processing speed of the computer's main chip is also throttled back to reduce heating.