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Intel, AMD and Apple test on-chip water cooling tech

One way to get a G5 into a PowerBook?

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Intel, AMD and IBM could soon been shipping water-cooled processors to boost clock frequencies without putting extra strain on notebook, desktop and server heat management systems, courtesy of a new technique developed by Stanford University spin-off company Cooligy.

Using water to cool over-clocked processors is nothing new, but Cooligy has taken the technique a stage further: it has figured out a way to implement water cooling directly within the chip itself.

Cooligy's approach - called Active Micro-Channel Cooling (AMC) - involves scoring hundreds of tiny channels into a silicon layer placed on the upper surface of the chip package. Water - or any other fluid, for that matter - circulates through the channels drawing heat away from the core.

The company claims AMC can cool a CPU by up to 1000W per square cm. The best a passive system can manage, it says, is 250W per square cm.

AMC uses a solid-state electro-kinetic pump to draw the water through the channels and across a heat radiator. Apart from the fluid, the system contains no moving parts, so should be effectively noiseless and reliable for long-term use, Cooligy says.

Cooligy said it will begin providing PC makers with qualification systems later this year.

The company also said it has prototyped the system with Intel, AMD and Apple. The Intel test produced the highest performance Intel had ever seen from any cooling technology, Cooligy claims.

The Apple connection is interesting since Cooligy's could play a major role in allowing the company to ship G5-based PowerBooks. The 64-bit CPU requires a major computer-controlled cooling system in its desktop incarnation, rendering it effectively useless for mobile applications.

The chip is expected to clock to beyond 3.2GHz in the Q2 2004 timeframe, when IBM begins volume shipments of a 90nm version of the chip. IBM has said it has already started sampling 90nm parts. However, while the die-shrink reduces the power consumption on a clock-for-clock basis, pushing up the core frequency quickly eliminates the gain.

Apple has already said it is exploring a range of cooling techniques for future machines, including liquid cooling systems. ®

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