The Future of Cooling
PC cooling has yet not concluded its role. Taking in account the increasing awareness that acoustic noise emissions often adverse effect human well-being and make it harder to concentrate, and the increasing demand on more energy-efficient computer systems, the near future may sort out three main issues in PC cooling technology:
1) Fan cooling: Improved utilization of fans by making the personal computer system unit aware of and capable of adaptive cooling according to need. It is probable that we will see an increased utilization of slow moving noiseless high efficient cross flow fans. PC case manufacturers will also most probably increase the use of sound insulating material and so called "noise-locks". Sound insulating material will tend to increase system heat, which will make it even more important that the system is aware of this physical property.
2) Watercooling: Those people not satisfied with anything else but the fastest and most capable technology will be utilizing watercooling. This is a technology far more efficient than utilizing air for cooling. This active cooling technology is also much easier than fans to make run silent. The people that utilize watercooling will be the ones that also are the most interested in knowing what temperature the components in their systems possess. Watercooling systems will also have to be made capable of shutting off the system if something goes wrong with the cooling system, and heat increases. Thus will it be essential with built-in temperature sensors in all heat generating components of the system and a central unit for thermal awareness and control also in watercooling systems.
3) Passive cooling: In addition to many home users, any in the World's public institutions and most ordinary offices, would be fully satisfied with the performance of already existing PCs capable of running with noiseless passive cooling. Passive cooling today is complicated because the temperatures that the system unit components reach is unknown. Being capable of maintaining an open PC architecture and at the same time making it easier to choose to use passive cooling requires the personal computer system to be aware of temperature, and shut it self off if necessary.
A watercooled graphic card. Handiwork by BladeRunner - Zero Fan Zone.
The Affordable Cost
Talking to some in the computer industry it seems like the price for a mass produced PC system unit equipped with thermal awareness and adaptive coordinated cooling capabilities would increase by less than 5 US$.
It is understandable that implementing PC thermal awareness, and coordinated adaptive cooling capabilities according to temperature, in the initial phase will cause some compatibility issues to handle, but is there a sustainable alternative?
Some people might object that fullfilling the idea is unnecessary and too costly. They might say that thermal measurements can be left to the computer industry to do as they manufacture the system units and components; like the computer industry always did. Is this self-interest or the greater good? Does the computer industry have an other solution to the heat, noise and electric power consumption issues of electronic circuits and mechanical devices in their hip-pocket? Will Intel®, IBM®, Philips®, AMD®, VIA®, Toshiba®, Hitachi®, Dell®, Fujitsu Siemens Computers®, NEC®, ASUS®, Hewlett-Packard®, Motorola®, Phoenix Technologies®, Panasonic®, Transmeta®, Papst®, Analog Devices®, ST Microelectronics® or any other important company in the computer hardware industry come up with a better solution to these issues in the near future, making implemention of PC thermal awareness, and coordinated adaptive cooling capabilities according to temperature superfluous?
Will we soon reach a state when we will stop building faster and more capable PCs or PC components? A state where people don't find the need for any improved PC performance? A state where PC heat, noise and power consumption issues easy will keep pace with the need for performance? Are these days of heat dissipation of technology just an aside, and will these problems be overcome in the near future? No, probably not. Letting it all be as it has been will most possibly in the long run tend to make it more complicated to improve PC acoustic ergonomy, tend to make it more difficult to improve PC reliability, and tend to conserve an unnecessary high PC electric power consumption.
It is of course sad and uncomfortable, but understandable, that thermal awareness and coordinated adaptive cooling capabilities were not implemented when the personal computer was born: At that time heat dissipation and power consumption of PCs were not that much of a problem. At that time, still living in the era of the industrial society, information technology noise emissions were not much of an issue either.
An Aware CPU Manufacturer
Intel® is one of the leading information technology manufacturers working for PC thermal awareness and control.
Intel Pentium® processors (CPUs) have for a long time been equiped with high-quality on-die temperature sensors and solutions for to slow down or shut off the CPU, if a temperature limit is reached.
Intel is one of the important contributors to the ACPI specifiction.
In 2006 Intel's new Core2Duo CPUs took leadership in both performance and in the performance per watt power consumption ratio.
Intel was the first known CPU manufacturer utilizing integrated heat spreaders for to make the CPU contact surface area to the heatsink as large as possible; for to improve heat evacuation.
In the article Differentiating PCs in a 'Toaster World' does Analog Devices and Intel provide some of the latest knowledge on how Man reacts to noise, rules out the important relation between heat and noise, and tell how it can be minimized by adding thermal awareness to the system.
Note that The Silent PC® is an independent publication and has not been authorized, sponsored, or otherwise approved by any of the companies or other sources at the site mentioned or cited.
Intel and Pentium are registered trademarks of Intel Corporation in the United States and other countries.
An Aware Software Manufacturer
Microsoft®, the World's most important software manufacturer, well-known for its Windows® family of operating systems, is also one of the leading information technology manufacturers working for improved PC thermal awareness and control, and improved PC power management.
PC Ecosystem Advances by Microsoft is a writing that share many of the thoughts at this page:
"Microsoft wants the Windows platform to be a profitable place for partners to invest and innovate. However, for PCs to be compelling, they must be designed from a "whole system" standpoint, taking into account performance, features, stability, business viability, and human factors such as acoustics, aesthetics, and ease of use."
"Think of the PC hardware as an ecosystem that depends on the interactions among the core of the Windows operating system, the core PC architecture, the firmware, and all devices with their drivers, including system-level devices. It is the quality of the interaction of individual components within the platform as a whole that defines the quality of the users experience."
Microsoft and Windows are either registered trademarks or trademarks of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
Advantages of PC Thermal Control
Less noise and reduced power consumption
A central temperature controling motherboard unit, equipped with a user interface as a part of the operating system, can be built able to calculate the demands for cooling in the different areas of the PC system unit, and regulate cooling according to actual needs, rather than at full speed as a precaution. Being able to monitor temperature and regulate cooling according to need, PC cooling can become optimized so that it isn't used more than
necessary, thus also possible minimizing the noise emissions from what
ever cooling technique is used. Lowering the average effect of active cooling will also make it possible to reduce electric power consumption.
In the future is it most possible that we will see fans being replaced by either other active cooling solutions like watercooling, or more often by noiseless passive cooling solutions - a fact that most probably doesn't make continuous temperature measurement redundant. Even if some in the computer industry can develop cooler running components than the others, they will probably have to build them being able to be used in systems where other components generate so much heat that they can threaten reliability also of their own cool running components.
Motherboards featuring a temperature control unit can be constructed to be responsible for alarming, or shutting off a problematic component or the whole machine, if an upper temperature limit is reached. The control unit can also be built featuring a log system, which can make it easy to find out what component causes problems or the system unit to halt because of overheating.
Enclosing hard disks or whole system units in sound insulating material can
become safe with temperature-aware PCs, since it will remove the
fear that the PC system unit or some of its components will overheat.
Maintained open PC architecture
Most people today want to be able to update their PC systems. Designed for coordinated adaptive PC cooling, cooling of the system will be built to increase if a new component adds heat, or obstructs air flow. Other advantages with the concept is that OEM manufacturers of system units, and people wanting to build their own system units, wouldn't have to do external thermal measurements - new system designs can regarding thermal issues be possible to evaluate from within the systems themselves.
Implementing a central temperature control unit might also in the long run reduce costs of PC hardware, since it will make it unnecesary for every component to be built to protect itself from overheating. The system will take care of such a vital thing, and each manufacturer will only have to ensure that his component provides the necessary data to the thermal control unit.
No one would like to drive a car not capable of showing and controling motor temperature. Today's PC users are becomming more and more aware. They want control. Aware PC users want more than today's half-baked hardware monitoring solutions.
Pressure to produce energy-economic components
Building almost all PC components capable of reporting temperature will make the user aware of which components generate what amount of heat. This will increase the pressure on the industry to produce energy-economic components with less heat dissipation.
Freedom of choice
The consumer will with "plug-and-play" temperature reporting of PC components find it easier to determine
if a new component will be sufficiently cooled in his system using a noiseless heatsink, or if it needs an active cooling technique. PC components can be manufactured with an option for passive or active cooling - in an already hot system the consumer has to choose the active solution, in the cool system he or she can choose the passive one. It can with such a standard also become easier to choose if one wants the most extreme and fast, but hot running component, or if one can sacrifice a bit of performance for a reduction of noise - and also at the same time a lower electric power consumption.
Images of the Future
Like this will we possibly in the future be able to check that our PC systems are healthy regarding temperature. In the traybar we see a graph telling us that every main component in the system is within its temperature limit. If we click on the graph the full program shows up.
The images here shows part of the interface for the program GL Temperature Sensor made by Jon Cage. He has also built the temperature monitoring circuit for it.
Dynamic Power Consumption
By producing PCs whose components only use as much power as is needed
in any given situation, the total PC power consumption can decrease. This
will tend to reduce the average temperature of the PC components, at the same time reducing the need for active and - most often - noise generating and electricity consuming cooling solutions. Reducing electric
power consumption of personal computers will make them more environmentally friendly.
When promoting the benefits of dynamic power consumption and dynamic cooling of PCs, you have to be aware of the fact that a continuous higher noise level can be apprehended as less distracting than a noise level that fluctuates too often and too fast, even if this overall noise level is lower than the higher continuous one:
Psychoacoustic considerations must be taken in account when designing circuits for dynamic PC cooling.
In the article "Managing Thermal/Acoustic Trade-Offs in High-Performance Systems" Analog Devices discuss how to best implement dynamic PC power consumption and dynamic PC fan cooling in relation to how humans hear.
Core conflicts in all systems are those of autonomy and dependence, of autonomy and subordination.
This page deals with two important systems: That of the personal computer system and that of the computer hardware industry system. Today the components comprising the personal computer hardware system are only partly working in the direction of what must be every system's main goal - to provide what's intended with a minimum of unwanted side effects, with as low costs as possible. It will be possible to improve this fact by subordination of some of the personal computer components in some respects - this way making them better able to cooperate on mastering their unwanted side effects.
The companies constituting the computer industry have been most impressive in working together on standardization, to subordinate on a main goal: To provide the World with the personal computer systems. Having been capable of that it seems like it just should be a matter of interest to also deepen a cooperation on some more standards with the goal to reduce the main unwanted side effects of their systems. If the computer industry choose to do so, might we in some years have even more reasons to be proud of our computer technology, and will have reasons not only to let it share similarities with the human thought, but also with the way our nervous system and body works.