ngineers from Thorrn Micro Technologies have developed a solid-state fan that exploits corona wind to move more air than a traditional fan 35 times its size. Corona wind is a physical phenomenon that is produced by strong electric fields. Such electric fields are commonly found on sharp conductive points with a very concentrated electrical charge, which generates a strong electric field. When this electric field reaches a certain strength, known as the corona discharge inception voltage gradient, the surrounding medium (in this case air) is ionized (charged) with the same polarity as the sharp conductive point. The point then repels the like-charged air molecules surrounding it, creating what is called corona wind.
This concept is very similar to the one used on a large scale in home air purifiers. The RSD5 solid-state fan developed by Thorrn Micro Technologies implements the technology in such a way that the resulting air flow, which is apparently tremendous, is produced far more efficiently than a normal mechanical fan. One of the engineers from Thorrn involved with the project, Dan Schlitz, stated that, “The technology has the power to cool a 25-watt chip with a device smaller than 1 cubic-cm and can someday be integrated into silicon to make self-cooling chips.”
Obviously the technology will need to be scaled up a bit if cooling of traditional desktop processors is a desired application, but even in its current state, it seems that an incredibly small version of the device can be used to effectively cool a majority of the processors found in typical mobile devices, including moderately powerful notebook PCs. The technology could also be used in tandem with current convection heatsinks in desktop PCs to provide extra cooling performance, perhaps by causing more turbulence in the air flow across large cooling fins. Also, it is reasonable to think that further development of the technology could result in more efficient fans that really could be used on the silicon level to actively cool chips “before they get hot”.
Charts detailing technical data and a picture of the device can be found on DailyTech or on the company’s website.
As an engineer and technology enthusiast, this is the kind of stuff that genuinely interests me the most. Good to see.