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Silent Power PC ditches the fan for a "cool" copper afro

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July 29, 2014

The Silent Power PC uses an open-air metal foam heatsink for passive cooling

The Silent Power PC uses an open-air metal foam heatsink for passive cooling

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The Silent Power PC is claimed to be the first high-end PC able to ditch noisy electric fans in favor of fully passive cooling. In place of a conventional fan, the unit uses an open-air metal foam heatsink that boasts an enormous surface area thanks to the open-weave filaments of copper of which it is composed. The Silent Power creators claim that the circulation of air through the foam is so efficient in dissipating heat that the exterior surface temperature never rises above 50° C (122° F) in normal use.

Whilst a little unusual in appearance with what looks like a large metallic fiber kitchen sponge sitting on top of it, the hardware the Silent Power PC claims to contain is conventional enough. With an Intel quad-core i7-4785T 2.2 GHz processor, 8 or 16 GB of RAM, an NVIDIA GTX 760 graphics card, and the usual array of USB, Wi-Fi, Ethernet, HDMI, DVI, and audio ports, along with Windows 8.1 as standard, the Silent Power PC certainly has the specifications of a "normal" machine.

The real innovation is in the cooling system. A copper base, which is in direct contact with the CPU and GPU via thermal paste, forms the top of the chassis and absorbs heat and releases it evenly to the copper foam on top. In this way, the Silent Power PC’s heat dissipation is claimed to be 500 times greater than that offered by conventional fin-type heatsink systems and is more than sufficient to maintain adequately low operating temperatures. The design also features a reverse-layout compared to normal PCs – the CPU and GPU are on the top of the stack, rather than in the bottom of the case – to aid in heat dissipation.

And it is small. At just 160 mm (6.2 in) wide, 100 mm (4 in) deep, and 70 mm (2.75 in) tall, the case is very compact – without its bouffant coppery locks, of course. To achieve these compact dimensions, the designers had to ditch the machine’s internal power supply in favor of an external one, but it also means that the unit is claimed to weigh a mere 1.5 kg (3.3 lb).

One more feature to differentiate the Silent Power PC is an inbuilt sensor that the team says can detect movement to wake the unit up from standby as the user approaches. Conversely, if the user leaves the proximity of the device, the sensor detects the lack of movement and automatically locks the system after a predetermined amount of time.

Currently still only a prototype, German startup Silent Power is running its own crowdfunding campaign with a goal of €45,000 (US$60,000) to get the unit into production. Funding is sought via donations or by pre-ordering of one of three versions of the PC: €699 (US$930) gets you the base 8 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD version, €769 (US$1,030) gets the 26 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD model, whilst €1,159 (US$1,550) will land you the top-of-the-range 16 GB RAM, 1,000 GB SSD PC.

Provided everything goes to plan, the Silent Power PC team says that production should begin sometime in the European spring of 2015.

Source: SilentPower

About the Author
Colin Jeffrey Colin discovered technology at an early age, pulling apart clocks, radios, and the family TV. Despite his father's remonstrations that he never put anything back together, Colin went on to become an electronics engineer. Later he decided to get a degree in anthropology, and used that to do all manner of interesting things masquerading as work. Even later he took up sculpting, moved to the coast, and never learned to surf.   All articles by Colin Jeffrey
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28 Comments

Looks like a very expensive air filter. Is it dishwasher safe?

JøhP
30th July, 2014 @ 12:49 am PDT

Fantastic idea, we're all fed up with these noise boxes.... however, I latch onto the previous comment but with a slightly different angle.... it appears fragile the question appears how do you get around the dust clogging problem ? Currently one can use compressed air to clean up the heat sinks.... but I assume that this would cause a serious "dent" into the afro version...with a serious drop in performance. Can we place it in the dishwasher ? or is it strong enough to withstand a serious airblast to get the dust out of the structure ?

CorJac
30th July, 2014 @ 02:26 am PDT

@JøhP exactly.

I wonder how the efficiency drops after a year or two when it get dusty. If it is fixed to processor and graphic card you probably cannot wash it easily.

On the other hand I miss some noiseless cooling for efficient PCs.

Dziks
30th July, 2014 @ 03:23 am PDT

But.. the foam just sitting on top of the heat-conducting plates will be terribly inefficient, there's not enough surface-contact area to transfer the heat to the foam itself well. It's probably terrific for transferring heat away from itself, but getting the heat there is going to be problematic.

I can't help but think that if it was possible to 3D-print with copper one should make it solid at the bottom and then eke slowly thinner and thinner strands out of it towards the top. This would make it easy to get the heat in there and since there would be no disconnects between the top and the bottom it'd still be efficient at dissipating the heat, too.

WereCatf
30th July, 2014 @ 03:45 am PDT

Great idea but I wonder how long before it gets clogged up with dust, cat hair ect?

Aussie Bob
30th July, 2014 @ 03:45 am PDT

$120.000.00....ROTFLMAO!

Paul Robertson
30th July, 2014 @ 04:11 am PDT

How many times a year do you blow the dust out?

Druid
30th July, 2014 @ 08:34 am PDT

High end specs today, but how about soring of 2015? Far enough time from now that if the idea works to find knock off versions at my local frys.

Chizzy
30th July, 2014 @ 09:07 am PDT

Heat is not going to conduct through the copper wool worth a darn. A steel can of water would make a better heat sink. (make it antifreeze to prevent problems)

Slowburn
30th July, 2014 @ 09:21 am PDT

I would advise to use fans anyway. The extra air push from two near-silent fans helps heat dissipation a lot more than it is worth to discard them.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
30th July, 2014 @ 11:02 am PDT

That's an awesome copper air filter they have there. I look forward to removing the dust bunnies and dead skin cells on a semi-monthly basis.

Seth Goldberg
30th July, 2014 @ 12:42 pm PDT

Two things: I wonder if this can be covered by a larger cover with air room and vents because A: it is ugly and B: won't this just get clogged up with dust?

It would be interesting if someone makes an after market cooler using this method. I guess the case would need to be included. I'd have to see some bench marks before I believed this is really that much better.

exodous
30th July, 2014 @ 12:43 pm PDT

my cat already wants to sleep on it from the photo alone; the rising heat would make it the next best thing to when she used to sleep on top of my now redundant crt monitor

seriously, a 170w video solution and a 35w cpu seems a complete mismatch for real life use, and anyone wanting silence can competently undervolt large fans on aftermarket cooling to close to silent

would make more sense to own an asus transformer for simple stuff in absolute silence, and an uber machine with "silent" components for fragfests - works for me

ash
30th July, 2014 @ 06:46 pm PDT

@slowburn a can of water may have more thermal mass, but once up to temperature the rate of dissipation is dependant on its surface area, which is approaching the minimum for a given volume, being a cylinder!

Agree with others seems like a heated air filter to me, with ever reducing performance, and very hard to clean!

Doug B
30th July, 2014 @ 11:55 pm PDT

Some computer tinkerer should thermal paste one of those copper kitchen scrubbers ("ChoreBoys"?) to the CPU in an old motherboard in place of the CPU fan assembly.

Then run tests comparing running temperatures.

Probably should put the scrubber in an old disposable plastic food bin (cat food container maybe?) with a hole cut in the bottom (for pasting to the CPU) to prevent accidentally shorting out on other components.

It could be that the heat dissipation of such an arrangement works as well as those little CPU fans, and without the noise.

BTW...

It's also one less fan to start knocking and moaning causing you to think the hard drive's failing and replace the whole computer. Have repaired and replaced numerous fans over the years but NEVER a hard drive. Got a box of perfectly good drives too small to be worth using.

DocSalvager
31st July, 2014 @ 12:37 am PDT

Will simple conduction and convection really provide enough cooling??? Even though fans bring in a huge amount of dust, this unit must also have enough airflow to dissipate the heat and will still bring in at least some dust. I have always been amazed that my computer collects more dust every year than my furnace filter. Maybe someone should just invent a tiny furnace filter for PCs. At first that sounds silly but then as I blow out a pound of dust from my computer case I wonder.

Bob
31st July, 2014 @ 01:49 am PDT

Big copper scouring pad on top. Not the best choice given how people will now steal copper from air conditioning units of occupied buildings for resale.

Bryan J. Maloney
31st July, 2014 @ 06:06 am PDT

Dust clogging is not an issue, since this is FANLESS ! NO FANS, NO DUST !

Just like fanless atom netbooks, which are dead silent, if you don't use it in a desert, it wont clog for a decade.

Secondly, the amount of heat transferred to an active heatsink, and this one is equal. If the copper cools as fast as a fan - which it does - the cooling capacity is the same. Why ? Because the surface area of chip in contact with the heatsink is the same. Basic physics you fools.

Tanmay Lolol Anais Pradhan
31st July, 2014 @ 06:58 am PDT

We use this product in a seal enclosure. The unit has a small fan that is aimed direct at the copper afro. The unit uses air fins to remove the heat from the inside, to the outside. Overall, it works very well dropping the internal temp by 10 deg's f.

I understand, from the manufacturer, that this design need to be inside a sealed enclosure.

DEMojica
31st July, 2014 @ 12:22 pm PDT

@ Tanmay, well said my friend. Too many armchair Engineers on this show.

bf_308
31st July, 2014 @ 02:10 pm PDT

Not sucking air into the case could be a real benefit for use in a humid or temperature changing environment, especially if the case had the air flushed with dry nitrogen or argon and then was sealed.

John Banister
1st August, 2014 @ 01:41 am PDT

@ bf - yeah, sometimes Gizmag is quite painful to read.

I wouldn't even say the word 'Engineer' as that term should denote a person who as studied and achieved a specific recognised qualification - as apposed to the 'printer engineers / boiler engineers / vacuum cleaner engineers (the list goes on)..

M4rkrz
1st August, 2014 @ 02:04 am PDT

@ Doug B

The water efficiently transfers the heat around the radiating surface but the can does need to be large enough to provide the radiating surface.

ps. Check out Spam cans.

Slowburn
1st August, 2014 @ 02:28 pm PDT

@ Slowburn Agree dependent on surface area, which their design is attempting to achieve by the use of a porous volume having high internal surface area.

@Tanmay "...claim that the circulation of air through the foam is so efficient in dissipating..." where there is air movement there is dust being transported and where the velocity is low the dust will fall from suspension and collect or be captured due to smaller porosity as in the case of a filter.

@bf_308 some of us are practicing engineers!!

Doug B
3rd August, 2014 @ 08:13 pm PDT

It looks like a fancy sanding block. Dust will be an obvious serious problem like so many have already stated but this article does not address it. A secondary problem might be oxidization... how does that affect its ability to dissipate heat? I've seen many applications of copper used in the past for heat dissipation but none with this much surface area to be oxidized.

JPK
4th August, 2014 @ 12:10 pm PDT

Points for an eye-catching design, but there are plenty of other ways to do fanless computing. Like I said, they'll get plenty of press for creating a product that looks unlike anything else on the market right now, but others are doing innovative things with fanless enclosures - http://www.logicsupply.com/core-ml320/

Darek Fanton
4th August, 2014 @ 01:28 pm PDT

I cant read any more silly comments without responding:

The one about needing a flat surface to mount against the chips - Well duh, you think you just had an epiphany about something they hadn't thought of - Shows clearly on their site they have.

Another about stealing copper - Wouldn't the device itself, or for that matter any modern PC be worth more than the little bit of copper in this unit?

Finally SlowBurn, come on, copper is one of the best heat conducting materials, diamond and nanotubes are 2 of the 4 higher.

Man, I feel better.

SquareJ
6th August, 2014 @ 10:07 am PDT

SquareJ,

Thanks, I feel better also.

katgod
6th August, 2014 @ 05:46 pm PDT
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