Start-up firm Cooligy yesterday announced a new processor-cooling technology, developed in cooperation with Apple, Intel, AMD and DARPA.

The technology – Cooligy's Active Micro-Channel Cooling – was developed at Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department. It's a solution that can "effectively cool the next breed of powerful, hot microprocessors" in high-end computers. The company took the wraps off its new technology yesterday, and will begin shipping "qualifying systems" to computer manufacturers later this year.

Active Micro-Channel Cooling uses "common materials to produce a noiseless closed-loop active cooling system for CPUs, ASICS, graphics chips, and the large programmable gate arrays", the company says.

"The method was successfully modelled and prototyped in cooperation with Intel, AMD, Apple, and DARPA. The Intel test produced the highest performance Intel had ever seen from any cooling technology," the company explains.

Passive vs active

Cooligy's explanatory notes say: "The next generation of microprocessors, the semiconductor 'brains' of computers, not only produce higher overall temperatures but also create one or more concentrated hot-spots of particularly high heat on the chip. These hot spots, typically found above areas where the most amount of work is performed on the chip, must be kept to within a specified temperature to ensure high-performance and reliability. Traditional means of cooling these chips, such as heat sinks, fan sinks and heat pipes, require a large mass of metal to passively absorb and spread the heat to air-cooled fins. These passive technologies cannot effectively cool the hot-spots produced in next-generation microprocessors."

The new system absorbs and dissipates heat from the chip’s hot spots. It collects heat using a thin layer of micro-machined silicon that sits on top of the microprocessor. "A very dense area of Micro-Channels etched into the silicon enables fluid to circulate through the heat collector and efficiently absorb and take away heat," the company explains. A tiny solid-state Electro-Kinetic pump circulates fluid through the cooling system and to a "heat radiator", which transfers the heat to air. The solution makes no noise, has no moving parts, and is reliable in the long-term, the company said.

In tests, the solution has proven effective to cool hotspots of up to 1,000 watts per square centimetre.

Cooligy claims its solution to be the first "to solve the difficult cooling challenge presented by intense hot spots in future chips."

The company was founded in 2002 by Ken Goodson, Tom Kenny, and Juan Santiago, all professors in Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department.