Advances in Computer Cooling Systems

A few months ago I wrote an article about electricity use in data storage centres, and I want to continue on that theme today. This week Intel announced the results of a year long experiment that involves immersing computers in mineral oil to cool them.

It turns out that the reason these centres use so much electricity is the need to cool the machinery. As this article points out some companies have had the brilliant idea of building their facilities in cold places, so that they can just leave the doors open or use cold seawater to cool the plants, but obviously this does not suit all business plans.

Intel have been immersing their machinery in mineral oil in an attempt to save on electricity. Oil is a better conductor of heat than air so works more efficiently. You just have to remove the fans from the casings and drop the machines in. At the end of this 1 year experiment they found no problems in the machinery due to the immersion. Report in the article linked above.

Computers submerged in mineral oil which acts as a cooling agent

Intel’s experimental oil cooling system

This certainly gives a whole new meaning to the idea of a think-tank.

An organization called Sandia have another idea called a fan-less heat sink. This is a rotating wheel covered in fins that cuts out the use of the fan. They claim that this system is also much more efficient than the old fan system and is not affected by dust as the centrifugal force generated during its use throws it all out. There is an article explaining it here and for a technical explanation see their company website.

If you want to go one step further how about laser cooling? Researchers at Nanyang Technological University have been working on this idea in the hope that they will be able to build microchips that actually cool themselves. Their press release talks about the end of compressors in fridges and air conditioners, a dramatic advantage in energy waste and an end to noisy fans. All published in this month’s Nature science journal.

If all of this has wet your appetite you could try to convert your old computer to a water cooling system. Rather expensive commercially available solutions are available but this blog demonstrates how you can do it all in your own home using just a few things you can buy at your local hardware store. I would recommend that you do not use the computer you are using now though and that you save anything you might want to see again onto another hard drive!

I take no responsibility for damage incurred.

Sponsored: The rise of the Ultrabook

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Before you read any further you should know that as a writer I have been offered a small fee to produce this article, and will receive a (very small) fee for every person in the UK who watches the video – for a limited time. That said, this in no way affects my objectivity or impartiality, and I endeavour to make this article as interesting as any other on the blog. Our policy as a blog is to only accept paid editorials which are of interest to the writer, and which we believe will be of interest to our readers. Funds raised help us to maintain and improve the blog.

The word Ultrabook has become somewhat of a buzzword in the computing industry in recent times, but many people don’t really know what it means or refers to. What is an Ultrabook?

It really is amazing how fast paced the technology industry it. Go back 3 years and tablets didn’t exist and just 6 years ago smartphones didn’t either.


The first variation on a laptop was the Netbook, which went on sale in 2007. A Netbook a term used to describe laptops which are lightweight, portable, lacking in external ports and cheap. Most Netbooks don’t have CD drives and as far as I am aware none have floppy drives as standard.

Netbooks were deigned as a cheaper alternative to a laptop which is ideal for using on the go. The rise of Netbooks was deigned to improve the portability of a laptop, as despite laptops being more portable than desktops, they often weren’t practical for using on the go.


Last year laptop makers went a step further in the long-term development of the device and created the Ultrabook. Ultrabooks were designed to be as portable as a Netbook, but the next level up in terms of speed, practicality and storage.

Ultrabooks are very well designed laptops with powerful processors, designed to use less power and therefore have a better battery life. Ultrabooks are like Netbooks in that they are very portable, but they are also powerful.

Most of the big technology firms are now making Ultrabooks. Acer, Dell, HP and Samsung all have their own brands.

The majority of Ultrabooks are powered by Intel’s powerful ‘i‘ processors. Intel Core i3 processors are what you find in most Ultrabooks, these are very powerful and cope well with multiple operations. Some Ultrabooks have Intel Core i5 processors which, are another step up from the i3 – more power leading to better handling and greater possibilities. There are now a few Ultrabooks which run Intel Core i7 processors, which are lightning fast! i7 is rare though, as most people would never need to a processor which that fast.

One recent addition to the Ultrabook market is Acer’s Aspire S5. It is currently the worlds thinnest Ultrabook, measuring a tiny 15mm closed and a staggering 11mm when open – it beets the competition by some considerable margin! Dell XPS 14 for example is nearly 2.1cm when shut (almost an inch) whereas the Aspire S5 is less than 1.5cm.

Acer Aspire S5

The Acer Aspire S5 – a powerful Ultrabook.

Acer’s Aspire S5 is not only ultra thin, but also ultra light (starting to see why it’s called an Ultrabook?) weighing in at 1.2kg. The screen is an impressive 13.3 inches making it pretty much the same size as a 13-inch MacBook Pro. That said the equivalent MacBook weighs 2.06kg, 0.86kg heavier than the Aspire S5 – that’s like carrying the best part of an extra bag of sugar around with you!

Ultrabooks really do showcase the amazing technological advancements that have been made in the last few years. Devices are getting smaller, thinner, less power hungry and more powerful, and the Aspire S5 is no exception.

Technology firms seem intent on advertising their new devices in the most innovative way possible at the moment, and Acer have produced an advert in-line with this trend for their new Ultrabook. If you are interested, take a look at the ad below to see the Aspire S5 in action – quite literally in action!


So what are your thoughts on the Ultrabook trend? Do you think that portable is the future, and desktops are destined for the scrapheap, or is there a future where they co-exist?

Which is your preferred option, the usually slightly cheaper, but less capable Netbook, or would you rather spend a little more to have a much more powerful, performance built Ultrabook? Personally I would have an Ultrabook any day of the week!

Thoughts and comments welcome below 🙂

How the USB revolutionised computing

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The Universal Serial Bus, or as it is now commonly referred to as the USB, is a port designed to provide power supply or share data between electronic devices.

Ask someone to think about a USB, most people will naturally assume you are talking about a memory stick, which in essence is a super small, lightweight portable hard disk. However don’t confuse a USB port (the holding device) with a USB flash drive (a memory stick).

The USB (both port and flash drive) is something most of us take for granted in modern times, so I thought in this post it would be interesting to look at some of the uses for USBs, and how the USB has evolved over time.

USB 1.0

Design prototyping for the USB began when computing was still in its infancy, way back 18 years ago in 1994. At the time the port was being developed by the big players in the computing industry – Microsoft, Compaq, Intel, IBM, etc. These companies realised that there was (at the time) no easy medium which allowed communication through computers. For the computer to evolve, the companies realised that this would be an integral part of the system, as if you cannot share data, options are limited. Do remember this was happening in times before the internet was the global phenomenon it is today.

The first USB was produced in 1995 by Intel. Computers of the time started to come fitted with one or two USB 1.0 ports – although looking back, relatively few PCs were ever released with USB 1.0 ports. Nowadays, USB ports are in most cases a necessity for keyboard and mouse input devices.

The USB 1.0 was a revolutionary product, however looking back, its functionality was limited. Its maximum data transfer speed was 12 megabits per second. Relatively slow. That said, back when it was first introduced, a computers internal hard drive was typically only sized around 256/1024 mb (1/4 of a gigabyte to one gigabyte).

USB 2.0

In late 2000, the USB flash drive was released, enabling users to store more data than ever before, by storing things external to their computer. It would be an understatement to say that the USB flash drive was a step up from the floppy disk – it was more of a leap up! Initially, most USBs were typically 8 megabytes in size, meaning that they could hold more than five times what a floppy disk could.

Earlier in the year, the USB 2.0 was released, meaning that data transfer could happen 40 times faster, at 480 megabits per second. Initially some flash drives were designed for 1.0, however soon they were all being designed for the new 2.0 port, due to the increased possibilities.

USB 3.0

In 2008, the currently less well known USB 3.0 was released, which is more than ten times faster than its 2.0 brother.

USB flash drives have also improved over the years, and it is now possible to get a USB flash drive that is 256 gigabytes – one quarter of a terabyte. These disks are bigger than most computer hard drives were just a few years ago, showing the extent of the upgrades this technology has undergone.

A 256 gigabyte memory stick would though be useless with a USB 1.0 port as filling it would take almost 2 days (1.98 days) due to the speed of the data transfer. Even with a USB 2.0 port, the data transfer would take almost 72 minutes – more than an hour. Modern USB 3.0 ports could have the job done in less than 7 minutes. That really shows the true scale or achievement and advancement made in the USB industry.

Modern Uses

The USB is a crucial component of the modern PC, and is also very important for other devices. It is now possible to power many smartphones and multimedia devices via USB, either through a plug or your computer.

Some people use USB sticks to carry around a portable operating system with them, as it is perfectly possible to load Windows 7 onto a 16 gb memory stick and carry it around with you.

A USB penThe USB itself is a very flexible (not literally, the board would probably snap were you to bend it) device, with a lot of room for aesthetic variation. You can now get a range of Promotional USB Sticks, which many organisations often utilise, choosing to offer branded USBs as promotional gifts. This is all thanks to the readily available technology and cheap price of the components involved.

USBs now come shaped as credit cards, keys, pens, robots, people and even wine bottles!

A USB shaped into a bottelDo you have any funky USB flash drives at home? How about USB ports, have you counted how many your PC has? Comments and feedback below as always 🙂