Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Watercooling Silicon

Interesting article from The Economist on the move to water cooled chips. I'm not actually as facinated by that as by the last two paragraphs that focus on cooling the silicon in solar cells. Quote:

"Water-cooling of this sort may also make a more direct contribution to the reduction of greenhouse-gas emissions, by promoting the use of solar energy. Solar cells are also made of silicon, and the latest fashion is to concentrate sunlight on them using mirrors. That means you need less silicon to make a given amount of electricity, but it also makes the silicon very hot—as hot as a commercial microprocessor.

By cooling such devices with liquids, IBM reckons it can increase the amount of sunlight that can be focused on them without destroying them, thus increasing the amount of electrical energy they produce. Supratik Guha, a researcher at IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, has put this to the test and found that he can concentrate 2,300 times more sunlight on a cell than nature would provide, while maintaining that cell at a (relatively) cool 85°C. Without the cooling system, its temperature would rapidly exceed 1,500ยบ, causing it to melt. With cooling, the cells can manage an output of 70 watts a square centimetre—a record, according to IBM, and a demonstration that plumbing, too, can be a high-tech form of engineering."


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