London, Jan 25 : Researchers in the US have shown that the use of sound waves can boost the efficiency of liquid cooling technologies by nearly 150%, which will help to keep computer chips and other components from overheating in the future.
According to a report in New Scientist, current computer cooling solutions, such as fans and heat sinks, will have difficulty in keeping more powerful microchips cool in future.
But, with the new research, scientists have demonstrated that how a relatively inefficient method - liquid cooling - can be improved considerably with the use of sound waves.
One of the best ways to remove heat quickly in high-power applications is to allow a liquid coolant to boil, so that the resulting vapour whisks away excess energy.
However, this process creates tiny bubbles of vapour that can form a film over a hot surface and serve as an insulator, spoiling the cooling process.
Now, Ari Glezer and his colleagues at the Georgia Institute of Technology have used a new method using sound waves that can dislodge bubbles before they can join together into a film.
In experiments, the researchers placed an acoustic driver - essentially a speaker - sitting opposite from the heated surface, with cooling fluid in-between.
They found that projecting just a small amount of sound energy, at frequencies near 1 kilohertz, across the fluid was enough to do dislodge the gathering bubbles. This increased the amount of heat that could be dissipated by as much as 147%.
The best results were achieved when the distance between the acoustic driver and the heated surface was just a few millimetres, which will suit applications in which space is a premium.
"This way is more compact, requires less power, and is more elegant," said Glezer.
In fact, this technique might find use in various applications.
According to Glezer, sound-enhanced liquid cooling could find use in areas outside computing, keeping hybrid vehicles' high-powered components cool, for example.
"It holds promise for applications such as chip cooling and micro-scale heat exchangers," said Satish Kandlikar, an expert on cooling technology at the Rochester Institute of Technology in New York, US.
"The approach could also be suitable for keeping components cool in aircraft and space vehicles," he added.