Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Powering Computers with Their Own Heat - Science

The research reported in the article revolves around a thermal diode but what do I know for a thermal diode.  It seems so cool it should be Nobel Prize material but I know nothing of this type of electronic unit so I looked to discover the concept has existed for some while.  Apparently the research has identified a way to do it better in serving as an electronic heat pump / cooler. (WIKI:  Thermal diode)

Driving a computer with its own heat is the Cold Fusion of hardware computing since it means the machines can run cleaner, faster, and won't burn your legs when you sit your laptop across them.

Sidy Ndao and Mahmoud Elzouka, University of Nebraska-Lincoln College of Engineering, developed this thermal diode that may allow computers to use heat as an alternate energy source.

Credit: Karl Vogel | University of Nebraska-Lincoln Engineering

Nebraska:  they're damn foreigners.  They don't belong here and H-1B will take care of them.

Hmmm ... you're not from the future, are yewwww?

The Problem to Solve

One of the biggest problems with computers, dating to the invention of the first one, has been finding ways to keep them cool so that they don't overheat or shut down.

Instead of combating the heat, two University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers have embraced it as an alternative energy source that would allow computing at ultra-high temperatures.

Sidy Ndao, assistant professor of mechanical and materials engineering, said his research group's development of a nano-thermal-mechanical device, or thermal diode, came after flipping around the question of how to better cool computers.  (Science Daily: Harnessing heat to power computers)

The Proposed Solution

A paper Ndao co-authored with Mahmoud Elzouka, a graduate student in mechanical and materials engineering, was published in the March edition of Scientific Reports. In it, they documented their device working in temperatures that approached 630 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ndao said he expects the device could eventually work in heat as extreme as 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit, which could have major implications in many industries.

"We are basically creating a thermal computer," Ndao said. "It could be used in space exploration, for exploring the core of the earth, for oil drilling, (for) many applications. It could allow us to do calculations and process data in real time in places where we haven't been able to do so before."

- SD

The Gain

"It is said now that nearly 60 percent of the energy produced for consumption in the United States is wasted in heat," Ndao said. "If you could harness this heat and use it for energy in these devices, you could obviously cut down on waste and the cost of energy."

The next step is making the device more efficient and making a physical computer that could work in the highest of temperatures, Ndao said.

Though the researchers have filed for a patent, Elzouka said there is still work to be done to improve the diode and its performance.

- SD

Sixty percent seems too high for the amount of wasted energy but a wood-burning fireplace is one of the worst since most of that energy is lost in heat up the chimney.  Internal combustion makes the sweetest exhaust note possible but it's not much efficient either since a tremendous amount of that energy is lost in heat as well.  It's not surprising the Rockhouse that sixty percent of the energy produced is wasted.

These jokers seem like they have an answer, at least within the context of computers, and the aggregate of all the energy wasted in heat from data processing devices on a global scale must be enormous.

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