Thermal diode – the first step to computers that work on heat instead of electricity
Intel learned how to drain excess heat in data centers with the help of warm water, Lockheed Martin learns micro-drop cooling of microchips from the inside, and Microsoft simply calls for help the World Ocean. According to some sources, 60% of the total energy for the operation of computer systems is wasted, turning into parasitic heat, which must be disposed of.
A team of scientists from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln tried to create a thermal diode, which not only gets rid of excess heat, but also uses it as the basic principle of work.
Heat is the enemy of the computer, because the physical processes of the functioning of the diodes fail when the temperature rises. And it grows because of the active work of the diodes themselves, which leads to a paradoxical situation. We spend energy to disperse and unwittingly warm up the system, and then we look for ways to cool it, again we spend resources.
The new element consists of a fixed cooler plate and a movable heater. The system is self-regulating – the more one part is heated, the closer it approaches another to maximize heat transfer. And vice versa, which allows you to remove excess without the use of active external devices. While the coefficient is small, heat transfer reaches only 11%, but the system successfully operates at a temperature of 257 ºC.
Calculations indicate that thermodiodes can withstand both 327 ºC and even 700 ºC. That’s the ready basis for the chip, which can be put on a research ship for the atmosphere of Venus, with its overheated and dense atmosphere. Or hot subsurface of our Earth, however, it is necessary to adapt other parts of the computer for this other than the chips. Therefore, the idea of energy recovery looks more promising, when the heat from the PC goes directly to the general outline of the “smart house”, without the installation of additional systems.
Thermodiodes are an experimental technology, so far scientists have created only one of the elements for which significant heating is not a fundamental obstacle in the work. There is still a lot of effort before you can develop a full-fledged computer running on a different physical principle, using heat instead of electricity .