This is a nice little twist on the traditional heatsink design you find on CPUs around the world. While normally you’d have a thermally conductive surface, some heat pipes, and a fan driving air over stationary heatsink plates, this design from Sandia switches things up. No fan at all — or if you like, the heatsink is the fan.
Basically the heatsink is a vortex-like shape that scoops up air into the gaps between the blades and creates a downward flow of cool air towards the center of the heatsink. It’s an elegant solution, though of course not without its downfalls.
The footprint is necessarily large because of the principles involved; most CPU coolers move heat out perpendicular to the heated element (i.e. directly away from the CPU) and as such are orientated vertically, if you will. This needs much more horizontal space (though it’s much smaller overall), something that’s at a premium on ATX boards, what with all the extra PCI stuff, six or more RAM slots, and voltage connectors wherever there’s a spare bit of PCB. And the microscopic distance between the blades and the surface might be hard to maintain (or keep clean).
That said, it’s an interesting design and could be a great solution for compact electronics like laptop boards and embedded systems. They’re looking into lots of different applications, but don’t expect one in your desktop any time soon. More info here. Patent pending!
[via Tech Report]