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Date: 20 September 2018
Air cooling of new computer chips  

Topic Name: Air cooling of new computer chips
Category: Electronics
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Research persons: Jensen,Professors Yoav Peles and John Wen

Location: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), 110 8th St., Troy, NY 12180. (518) 276-6000, United States


Air cooling of new computer chips

With a major grant from the Office of Naval
Affairs, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute are collaborating with
four other universities to address a hot topic in today’s military: how to keep
modern ships cool in extreme environments.Led by the University of Virginia and funded
under the Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative
(MURI) program, the overall research aim will be to develop cooling techniques
that can be used for thermal management of large-scale, distributed high-power
electronic systems. The project is funded by a $7.5 million grant, and
Rensselaer stands to receive $3.4 million over the next five years for its
portion of the research.
In today’s modern warfront, sailors and other
military personnel are asked to operate more advanced electronics in hotter
climates. Modern military ships, offices, and planes have thousands of
computers, lights, and other electronics whirring and working at once,
generating extremely high temperatures that require advanced cooling systems. 

Because of the increasing power levels of
today’s electronics, and the need for these systems to operate at super-fast
speeds in extreme environments, researchers need to find new cooling methods to
lengthen the life of electronics and increase system performance, according to
Michael Jensen, professor of mechanical, aerospace, and nuclear engineering and
project manager for Rensselaer’s part of the project.

The researchers involved in the
cross-university collaboration will work to develop thermal management
techniques that reduce device temperatures below 50 degrees Celsius. To do this,
each of the universities will use their research strengths, handling different
research thrusts that will later be integrated to help develop the next
generation of ultra-efficient electronic systems.

“We are looking to make fundamental
advancements in thermal regulation of electronic systems, from pinky-nail-sized
chips to an entire computer server farm at a high-tech company or a 500-foot
Navy ship,” Jensen said.

Rensselaer will lead the research thrust
examining the potential of using liquids to cool electronic systems. They will
focus on interactions at the interface between hot electronic circuitry and a
liquid, as well as determining how to integrate and manage the cooling of
thousands of heat-generating sources distributed over a wide area.

“We are reaching the limit of what we can do
with air cooling of new computer chips,” Jensen said. “We are now looking at
liquid cooling as an alternative method to cool electronic circuitry.”

Rensselaer researchers will work to uncover
the mechanisms that govern fluid flow and heat transfer in novel electronic
cooling systems. As part of that process they will examine the flow and cooling
levels of different liquids through micro-devices. This will help them develop
modifications to material surface chemistry and structure, understand ideal
microchannel configurations and examine the use of nanoparticle suspensions
within liquid coolants to improve overall cooling.

Rensselaer also will play a major role in a
thrust to design a large-scale thermal system simulator. The simulator will
create models of different distributed heat sources and cooling systems and
permit researchers to model and control the cooling of a system over time,
allowing the military to test cooling techniques prior to implementation.

Rensselaer is joined in the research effort
by the University of Virginia (lead institution), Arizona State University, the
University of California – Berkley, and the University of Illinois –
Urbana-Champaign. The Rensselaer team also includes Professors Yoav Peles and
John Wen, as well as the support of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace, and
Nuclear Engineering; the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems
Engineering; and the Center for Automation Technologies and Systems.

About Researchers:
University of Virginia

Yoav Peles

Department Affiliation:


  • Ph.D., Technion-Israel Institute of
    Mechanical Engineering

  • M.S., Technion-Israel Institute of
    Mechanical Engineering

The grant funding is part of a total $207
million in research funding announced March 7 by the Department of Defense (DoD).
The MURI program supports multidisciplinary research in areas of DoD relevance
that intersect more than one traditional science and engineering discipline. It
allows teams of researchers with a variety of expertise to work together to
accelerate research progress.

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