Spinning heatsinks are the latest big thing

A few years ago we wrote an April Fool’s gag about kiwi boffins keeping servers cool by putting them on potter’s wheels and spinning them.

We should have patented the gag, because it seems that someone has actually done something similar.

Sandia researchers have developed air-cooled heat exchangers where the “fan-plus-finned-heat-sink” air-cooled heat exchanger are replaced with heat sinks which are spun around 1,000 rpm.

Apparently the idea fixes the primary physical limitation to performance which is the boundary layer of motionless air that envelops all surfaces of the heat exchanger.

This thermal bottleneck creates the thermal resistance of the heat exchanger. It also solves the problem of rubbish getting sucked into the machine and sticking to the heat sink.

Spinning the whole lot removes the inadequate airflow to heat exchanger resulting from restrictions on fan noise. Because the small and medium-sized fans have relatively poor mechanical efficiency they make a lot of air.

Sandia claims that in its “Sandia Cooler”,  heat is efficiently transferred from a stationary base plate to a rotating counterclockwise structure. This combines the functionality of cooling fins with a centrifugal impeller.

Any dead air gets pushed aside by a powerful centrifugal pumping effect. It means that there is a 10x reduction in boundary layer thickness if everything is spun at a few thousand rpm.

There are shedloads of patent applications for the technology including 12/185,570, 12/732,662, 12/856,440, 09800787.5 , 61/448,655 and 61448649.  Sadly none of them have our name on them.