Summer 2010 Intern Project- Elan Frantz

THE POWER OF HEAT: UTILIZING THERMOELECTRIC POWER GENERATION TO COOL COMPUTER COMPONENTS

Elan Frantz
Electrical and Computer Engineering
UC Santa Barbara

Mentor: Peter Burke
Faculty Advisor: Art Gossard
Department: Electrical & Computer Engineering

Waste heat is a main source of inefficiency in computer electronics. Using thermoelectric (TE) devices, waste heat can be captured to generate power. In this study, TE power generation is tested as a method of cooling the central processing unit (CPU) of a computer. The goal of the project is to construct a physical model proving that TE devices can be utilized to lower the temperature of the CPU using thermal absorption and by powering a fan. To begin, a simulation of an active CPU system was constructed. Using a hotplate set at standard CPU operating temperatures and a commercial fan block as a heat sink, a temperature differential was established across the TE device. Current was run through the TE to determine the potential voltage and power outputs at a range of base temperatures. Diagnostic software will be used to monitor the health and operating conditions of the CPU, showing that the system is drawing enough heat away. At peak operating temperatures the TE has effectively driven a fan. A more efficient design could make the fan speed linearly responsive to CPU temperature. A successful TE cooling device could result in lower operating temperatures for the CPU, less energy consumed running fans, and longer computer lifetimes.

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