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GE's "dual piezo cooling jet" could enable even cooler gadgets

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December 13, 2012

GE's dual piezo cooling jet consists of a piezoelectric material (the blue bit) attached t...

GE's dual piezo cooling jet consists of a piezoelectric material (the blue bit) attached to two nickel discs

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Despite their shortcomings, fans do a good job of cooling things down inside PC chassis. Unfortunately, their bulky shape and drain on battery life doesn’t make them a viable option for thinner form factors, such as tablets and smartphones, limiting the processing grunt that can be crammed inside such devices. Inspired by lungs and by adapting technology that improves airflow through jet engines, researchers at GE have created a super-thin cooling device they say will enable thinner, quieter and more powerful tablets and laptops.

Rather than relying on rotating blades to extract the hot air from around the electronics, the device developed as GE Global Research uses vibrations generated by a piezoelectric material. The device, which has been dubbed the "dual piezo cooling jet," measures just three millimeters thick and consists of two nickel discs that are connected on either side to a sliver of piezoelectric ceramics.

When an alternating current is passed through the ceramic component, it expands and contracts at up to 150 times per second so that the nickel discs act like a bellows. When the piezoelectric material constricts, the edges of the two nickel discs are pushed together so that they bend away from each other and suck in hot air from the surrounding area. Then, when the piezoelectric material expands, the nickel discs come together and the air is expelled from the center at high velocity.

GE's dual piezo cooling jet sucks in hot air before expelling it at high velocity

Unlike cooling fans, the device has no bearings and doesn’t require a DC motor to run. It is also much thinner and consumes less energy than a fan. GE estimates that its cooling technology could add an extra 30 minutes of battery life to a laptop. Additionally, it says the dual piezo cooling jet can move the same amount of air as a comparable cooling fan twice its size while consuming half the amount of electricity and being cheaper to make. The technology is also scalable, so can be made smaller or larger to suit the application.

The research team, led by GE Global Research’s lead thermal systems engineer, Peter deBock, has already swapped their device for a fan in a laptop. “We had a lot of space left over,” deBock says. “It can make the laptop thinner or allow adding more electronics.”

Having received the first patent for the technology back in 2004, GE has licensed it to Japan’s Fulikura LTD, a major manufacturer of cooling devices.

The GE researchers explain their dual piezo cooling jet in the video below.

Source: GE via Extremetech

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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7 Comments

How does the air actually get cooler? The hot air appears to enter and leave through the same opening (not get expelled to the outside or replaced with an influx of outside air) so how isn't it just moving hot air around within the device? PV=nRT? Evaporative cooling dependent on having a certain moisture content in the air?

Steven Clifford Cohen
14th December, 2012 @ 04:22 am PST

It looks like the "fan" doubles as a heat sink. Place it on top of the hot chip, the casing of the fan heats up and the bellows action moves ambient air across the fan. However, it doesn't look like it would produce as efficient of an air flow as a fan that moves the air in constant direction.

Harvey
14th December, 2012 @ 07:52 am PST

The pressure is what's changing.

Note that in the article, it says that the air is expelled at high pressure. Pushing air out at a high pressure through a small opening reduces its temperature.

As an experiment, breath on your hand with your mouth wide open. Your breath should be about body temp. Now, purse your lips and blow on your hand as if you were trying to blow out a candle. Notice that your breath is considerably colder on your hand.

Robert Perkins
14th December, 2012 @ 08:33 am PST

The air is cooled by acceleration, just like in a fan. The biggest advantage I see in this device is the increased battery life. I would love to be able to use my gaming laptop without being connected to an outlet. If I put the power settings on minimal and avoid using it for gaming, I can use it for about 1.5 hours If I use it for a game, it is amazing if I get 45 minutes. It would be awesome to be able to play a game during lunch in my car.

Rob Jackson
14th December, 2012 @ 09:09 am PST

This is pretty cool. What amazes me more than anything is that this hasn't been done sooner. There must be something out there already like this, piezo's have been around a long time.

garbage_in
14th December, 2012 @ 06:27 pm PST

As far as I know, Murata manufactured the first type of this device in about 2008....

http://www.murata.com/products/micromechatronics/index.html

(with some 'cool' videos)

Daniel Brown
16th December, 2012 @ 02:18 pm PST

Nuventix have been making piezo-based coolers for years, theirs are called Synjets. See www.nuventix.com

Mr T
16th December, 2012 @ 04:13 pm PST
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