Skip to Content

Self-Cooling Microchips

Silicon ion pump creates a breeze.
November 1, 2006

As computer chips are crammed with more and more transistors, they run hotter, and traditional cooling mechanisms–heat sinks and fans–are having trouble keeping up. But future chips might cool themselves with a special ­gadget that uses ionized air and an electric field to create a tiny breeze. In a so-called ion pump, a high voltage across two ­electrodes strips electrons from molecules of ­oxygen and nitrogen in the air, creating positively charged ions. These ions flow to the negatively charged electrode, dragging along surrounding air molecules and cooling the chip. Researchers from Intel, the University of Washington Seattle, and ­Kronos Advanced Technologies of Redmond, WA, say a prototype can cool a two-­square-­millimeter spot on a ­surface by 25 ºC. Since the ion pump is made from silicon, it can be constructed as part of the chip-making process. Project leader Alex Mamishev, an electrical engineer at the University of Washington, says he expects the technology to be incorporated into commercial chips within two years.

An “ion pump” (dark purple square) sits atop a microchip. Cooler regions show up in purple when the pump is turned on. (Credit: Larsen, University of Washington)

Keep Reading

Most Popular

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

These exclusive satellite images show that Saudi Arabia’s sci-fi megacity is well underway

Weirdly, any recent work on The Line doesn’t show up on Google Maps. But we got the images anyway.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at customer-service@technologyreview.com with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.