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Syracuse University researchers work to make computers faster

Kiran Ramsey | Digital Design Editor

Syracuse University researchers are looking to create more efficient cooling systems.

Inspired by redwood trees, researchers at the College of Engineering and Computer Science have been studying a phenomenon known as passive liquid flow to increase computer processing speeds.

Shalabh Maroo, an assistant professor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science, said it was this phenomenon of transpiration that inspired him and his research group, the Multiscale Research & Engineering Laboratory, to look into passive flow in nanotechnology. Transpiration occurs when water travels, often against gravity, up through a confined space without any outside pressure.

Maroo and his team used their research to release a study about passive flow at the end of September. They found the process acts as an especially effective cooling system.

“If you think about redwood trees in California, they’re 100 meters high,” Maroo said. “It requires a great amount of pressure to drive liquid from the soil to a height of 100 meters. There is no pump attached to a tree. We can try to mimic this phenomenon and also extend it to achieve even higher flow rates than the tree does.”

The same concept that drives water from the roots of the trees to the leaves can be applied in computer technology. By looking at the process at an atomic level, Maroo said they will be able to create a mechanism for cooling down computer processors more efficiently.

The process is complicated, but Maroo said it is similar to the way sweating can help cool down a person’s skin.

“Consider your skin: as you generate more heat, sweat evaporates and cools down the surface of your skin,” Maroo said. “We want liquid to automatically go toward the heating surface and as liquid comes close to a hot surface, it will evaporate.”

The goal of the study is to figure out how to get liquid to move from a cooler to a heated surface passively. Once they are able to integrate it with computer processor chips, there will no longer be a need for external devices like a cooling pump, making the cooling process much more efficient.

Sumith YD, coauthor of the study, said in the future, there is going to be a need for significantly faster cooling mechanisms.

“Right now, if you look into a computer, it has a cooling system built in,” Sumith said. “But in the future, computational power is going to be too strong and the heat will need to be moved away much quicker.”

While the study is still in the theoretical stage, once it passes to the experimental phase it will have a big impact on computers and phones, Sumith said. He said it is one of the best methods for cooling down processors without an external pumping mechanism.

Maroo said his passive cooling mechanism is a way to keep up with the future demands of technology.

“One of the goals for the technology industry or for the chip industry is we want to go to the next generation of computing,” Maroo said. “So we want to come up with a solution.”

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