Novel Concepts, Inc., a research and development company that produces heat management solutions for the electronics and semiconductor industry, announced on Wednesday its new IsoSkin heat spreader material, a technology that the company says could eventually render the fans that cool notebooks and PCs obsolete.
As Daniel Thomas, chief technology officer for Novel Concepts, explains, a heat spreader is any device that improves the distribution of heat.
Novel Concepts' new IsoSkin is what's known as a thin planar superconducting heat spreader.
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The material is indeed thin. At 500 microns, these IsoSkin spreaders could eventually be used to replace the outer "skin" of portable electronics, thereby eliminating the need for heat sinks and fans, according to Novel Concepts.
The material dissipates heat 20 times more effectively than copper, the company said, or about 250 watts.
IsoSkin heat spreaders could also being used to complement or improve overall heat-sink performance by reducing the likelihood of circuits in microprocessors and semiconductors overheat or melt, Thomas said.
The number one problem for microprocessor designers today is heat, according to Thomas.
"The speed of the fastest personal computer sold today is limited by the microprocessor temperature," he said. "If computer companies used materials such as IsoSkin to reduce microprocessor core temperatures, much faster personal computers would be available."
On that note, Thomas noted that most of today notebooks are already turning to metallic skins. Right now, this is purely for aesthetics, he said.
But because notebooks have a lot of surface area, if IsoSkins were used, you could in theory use all of those surfaces to uniformly eliminate heat, he said.
At its core, IsoSkin heat spreader technology uses what's known as a planar capillary. This planar capillary provides the necessary amount of liquid (usually water) to handle power densities of up to hundreds of watts per square centimeter, Thomas said.
IsoSkin's planar capillary is engineered for liquid transport, which act as both a transportation medium and as a heat transfer structure.
"Basically, [the planar capillary] is a hollow vessel," said Thomas. "It's actually two thin sheets with space inside ... a flat sheet, but with small holes in it."
"Think of it this way," Thomas said. "When you have a pan of water boiling on stove on a cold day, the vapor will start to condense on the closest windows in the room. The way this IsoSkin works is: in a vacuum, when the vapor leaves, it moves at sonic velocity because there's nothing to get in its way."
So [with IsoSkin] vapor moves at the speed of sound to any window, or in this case, the holes in the sheets.
"It would be condensing on those windows instantaneously," Thomas said, "looking for the coldest spot instantaneously."
This could reduce microprocessor core temperature much faster than any of today's methods.
"We take advantage of water boiling inside a thin film in a vacuum and we have patent on that thin plane of fluid," Thomas explained.
Developed for large scale processing, IsoSkin heat spreaders could be manufactured for pennies per square centimeter, according to Novel Concepts.
Thomas says that IsoSkin is currently being sampled and tested by various microprocessor and electronics companies.