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MSI ECOlution: powering fans without electricity

MSI ECOlution: powering fans without electricity

MSI ECOlution - powered by Scottish Engineering.

Actively cooled heatsinks aren’t exactly new, but electricity is so last year - what about powering those fans by the heat generated from the chip it’s trying to cool?

Well MSI has done exactly that with its new ECOlution heatsink – it features a "Stirling Engine" - an engineering masterpiece originally patented by Scottish engineer, Robert Sterling. It features a four process system that moves gas back and forth between hot and cold heat exchangers: the chipset and the fins, respectively.

The cycle pushes a cylinder up and down which is then translated into moving the blades of a fan – the whole unit is autonomous and self contained. It’s also self regulating because the hotter the chipset gets, the faster than works to cool it.

MSI claims the efficiency is around 70 percent, but it does require the chipset to reach about 60ºC before it pipes up and starts working.

It’s certainly an interesting technology and kudos to MSI for this awesome innovation!

We'll no doubt find out more during CeBIT next week but in the meantime, you're free to discuss this in the forums.



51 Comments

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MonkeyNutZ 29th February 2008, 18:44 Quote
That's freaking hilarious!
MrWillyWonka 29th February 2008, 18:48 Quote
/Me wants a new engine for my computer
Flibblebot 29th February 2008, 18:53 Quote
erm...isn't April Fools' still a month away? Steampunk finally becomes a reality :D

If it does get shown at CeBIT, I'd love to see a video of it in action.
Bindibadgi 29th February 2008, 18:56 Quote
I will try to get a video. I do have one, but it's not a "real" one - just a simulation
Naberius 29th February 2008, 19:32 Quote
Out of all the components in my pc, its not the fans i was woried about when it comes to power consumption.

It is a pretty good idea though.
UncertainGod 29th February 2008, 19:37 Quote
It is rather awesome.
WhiskeyAlpha 29th February 2008, 19:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
I will try to get a video. I do have one, but it's not a "real" one - just a simulation

I've seen that Rich, like an animated 3d rendering? It look spretty funky and MSi have gotta be aknowledged for taking this on.

However, 60C before it kicks in? Ouch.
StevenJam 29th February 2008, 20:05 Quote
WOW -
E.E.L. Ambiense 29th February 2008, 20:21 Quote
LOL. Bravo, MSI. Friggin' funny. Gotta hand it to them... :)
banshee256 29th February 2008, 21:10 Quote
Seems like a great idea. Even though fans aren't the most power consuming components in a computer, they still require electricity, which comes via wires. And I hate wires. The less, the better. So give 'em to me now, please :)
p3n 29th February 2008, 21:13 Quote
half a brownie point for saving the planet, although trusting a mechanical system to cool your northbridge that has to be at 60 degrees? danger!

it even mentions the old single piston problem that you need to 'tap' it to actually get it moving should everything end up in line
TomH 29th February 2008, 21:26 Quote
There's an evening of alcohol involved to any man (or woman) who can invent a turbocharger tiny enough to modify that with...
Smilodon 29th February 2008, 22:22 Quote
It's a really cool concept, but I have problems seeing the advantage here.

It's inefficient (in terms of cooling), it have more parts that can fail and probably cost way more to produce.

It gets a very high score on coolness, though ;)
DXR_13KE 29th February 2008, 22:35 Quote
the strange, or stupid, thing is that i thought of this some time ago.... like 2 years ago....
Marquee 29th February 2008, 22:44 Quote
Great idea. Talk about green machine. LOL
Congrates to MSI for taking such a step. Its a great idea.
taliban_raider 1st March 2008, 00:40 Quote
If these ever see the light of day I would probably buy one to play with, I have always wanted to buy a stirling engine to play with, but I cannot see myself actualy trusting it to cool my pc. Hopefully it will be cheaper than all the other stirling engines floating around the web for sale.
naokaji 1st March 2008, 00:50 Quote
the basic idea behind it (converting heat into another form of energy) is nothing new, but seeing it realized in such a small self contained form is still amazing, what worries me though is the price, i mean mainboards are allready getting more and more expensive in relation to the other parts of the pc.
PrometheusCon 1st March 2008, 01:06 Quote
Very cool. People seem to forget that heat, light, sound, etc is energy and can be harnessed. I know I did.
Sparrowhawk 1st March 2008, 01:22 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by p3n

it even mentions the old single piston problem that you need to 'tap' it to actually get it moving should everything end up in line

I haven't had time to read it yet, but that's an easy fix. Have a second engine inline with the first, both geared together, with the first one a quarter turn apart from the second one. Steampunk, indeed.
zero0ne 1st March 2008, 03:02 Quote
one question / observation:

Would this mean that when the fan gets "turned" on, that it is also helping to cool the north bridge, since its converting heat energy into mechanical energy?

If so I guess the whole 60C thing wouldn't matter that much, as the fact that the fan is turning on is also greatly helping to cool the NB.
johnmustrule 1st March 2008, 05:22 Quote
A step backwards to move a step forwards, seriously trippy! Next advancement will bicycle pedaled mechanical processors, can anyone say Alan Turing!
dslickness 1st March 2008, 06:35 Quote
This is a really sweet concept for cooling. Maybe they can heat pipe all the mofits and north bridge chips together to create heat faster. And to cool it down together. But it is really worth it?

I wonder how much that costs. Plus if you want to save power, we're better off getting more efficient PSUs, CPUs, etc.
HourBeforeDawn 1st March 2008, 08:32 Quote
okay so ya I want one lol
Cthippo 1st March 2008, 08:41 Quote
Seriously cool! (no pun intended)

Regardless of whether or not it's practical, they get some credit for this!
Copiedright 1st March 2008, 11:45 Quote
Is this then passive cooling?

Well, its not active because there is no additional power going to it.
Bindibadgi 1st March 2008, 12:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Copiedright
Is this then passive cooling?

Well, its not active because there is no additional power going to it.

No, it is active because there is air actively being pushed through the fins when the fan is working, as opposed to a passive one which relies on convection.
Veles 1st March 2008, 12:27 Quote
That's pretty awesome, but I can see it being awful at actually cooling.
ccsharry 1st March 2008, 12:35 Quote
funky!! great item for gadgets... i suspect it's too expensive to be an alternative of the electric fan tho...
mWMA 1st March 2008, 12:44 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
No, it is active because there is air actively being pushed through the fins when the fan is working, as opposed to a passive one which relies on convection.

Actually technically you would consider it passive and active. As it is passive when there is not too much heat being created by chipset to run the thermal piston but is active when there is plenty of heat (60C or higher) causing the the fan to run due to thermal piston movement and keep the temperature down.

This is perfect for HTC setup where 60C is good enough heat level and can allow one to maintain that without much noise.
Bindibadgi 1st March 2008, 13:02 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mWMA
Actually technically you would consider it passive and active. As it is passive when there is not too much heat being created by chipset to run the thermal piston but is active when there is plenty of heat (60C or higher) causing the the fan to run due to thermal piston movement and keep the temperature down.

This is perfect for HTC setup where 60C is good enough heat level and can allow one to maintain that without much noise.

Sigh, yes, true.

Semi-active - because it does include a fan :P
Mankz 1st March 2008, 13:10 Quote
Niche maket. Uses less power than a powered fan chipset, but cools worse than a powered fan chipset.

As above, I can see this being useful for HTPC's or mabey some mATX boards.
zr_ox 1st March 2008, 13:26 Quote
Nice idea but it's still a fan.

It's application is still only going to be limited to certain chipsets. The P35 and X38 are very efficient and in many cases only reach 50c even running substantial overclocks. On those chipsets a passive cooler is more than sufficient and cheaper, this cooler is inevitably going to push up the price.

Again it's a nice idea but I think it's arrival is a little late, passive cooling has come on leaps and bounds and water cooling really is mainstream today. Anyone concerned with cooling will take another route.
Supra55 1st March 2008, 14:24 Quote
If this system worked and it was in a nice package, I could not only use it to cool my computer, but my room as well, imagine hooking a giant fan that runs like this up to a passive case (Zalman TNN300 comes to mind), you could cool your room with this as well as one day possibly cooling server racks this way.
Veles 1st March 2008, 14:47 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by zr_ox
Again it's a nice idea but I think it's arrival is a little late, passive cooling has come on leaps and bounds and water cooling really is mainstream today. Anyone concerned with cooling will take another route.

Watercooling is a long way from mainstream, it is much more popular than it used to but still not mainstream.

I can see this being useful for HTCPs as others have said, you can keep your PC passively cooled and if it gets too hot the fan will kick in to keep the temps down. Depends a lot on how noisy it is though. The only thing I can see this being used for is an eco friendly PC, but fans don't take up that much of the power consumed by a PC do they?
Poisonous 1st March 2008, 15:01 Quote
"The cycle pushes a cylinder up and down which is then translated into moving the blades of a fan – the whole unit is autonomous and self contained. It’s also self regulating because the hotter the chipset gets, the faster than works to cool it."
Smilodon 1st March 2008, 15:14 Quote
Wonder how the noise level on this thing is.

And I guess heat pipes is a better solution. You will always need fans anyway.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Poisonous
"The cycle pushes a cylinder up and down which is then translated into moving the blades of a fan – the whole unit is autonomous and self contained. It’s also self regulating because the hotter the chipset gets, the faster than works to cool it."

I was looking at that one myself yesterday. I thought it was just my lack of English skills... :o
xion 1st March 2008, 15:59 Quote
I may be shooting above my weight here... but "70% efficient"??? sounds a tad like marketingology to me...
Stirling-esque engines used in power generation and such are of the most efficient to date and still only achieve 40-60% afaik...

Perhaps its 70% efficient at powering the mechanism, thather than cooling... or its really 7% and someone thought it was a typo in the draft and changed it without consulting the engineers...

Either way, its a nifty ikkle gimmick, and a triumph of form over function, how much does power a chipset fan use anyway, it's got to be insignificant compared to the hardware :P

anyhoo... looks like steampunk's in this year!
Sparrowhawk 1st March 2008, 19:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by xion
and a triumph of form over function ...(snip)... anyhoo... looks like steampunk's in this year!
Indeed. I suspect the steampunk themes will be displaying this Sterling proudly.
Cheapskate 1st March 2008, 19:57 Quote
Sorry, not interested...
I will continue to use my hamster wheel powered fans, thank you.
TurtlePerson2 2nd March 2008, 04:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by DXR_13KE
the strange, or stupid, thing is that i thought of this some time ago.... like 2 years ago....

Yea, I thought of something like this, except to power a CPU, but that was more of a theoretical thing, this is real engineering.
Bbq.of.DooM 2nd March 2008, 11:37 Quote
Idea:

Unhook the fan. Hook it up to a generator, which is hooked up to a small heater / TEC instead of the chipset.

Free energy !
Bindibadgi 2nd March 2008, 18:29 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bbq.of.DooM
Idea:

Unhook the fan. Hook it up to a generator, which is hooked up to a small heater / TEC instead of the chipset.

Free energy !

The energy produced is so minute though and with every conversion you lose efficiency.
Jamie 2nd March 2008, 18:52 Quote
I want one of these so much... but I don't know why.
Herr_SturmGeist 2nd March 2008, 21:31 Quote
The 60C is a bit misleading, Sterling engines work on temperature differentials so it really depends on what the temperature of the air around the cooler is, though 60C is probably calculated on the expectd average of that air. Way cool idea nonetheless.
cobalt6700 2nd March 2008, 21:37 Quote
very cool idea, but 60c seems a bit much really,

ive held sterling engines that run off the heat of the palm of your hand....
kHAn_au 3rd March 2008, 03:31 Quote
Kudos to MSI for actually designing it and making it work.
I've looked at the Stirling engine for similar uses previously but dismissed it as 'over engineered' for the task.
Maybe they got a uni student on placement to do it....
naokaji 3rd March 2008, 07:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by cobalt6700
very cool idea, but 60c seems a bit much really,

ive held sterling engines that run off the heat of the palm of your hand....

the point behind making it only work above a certain temperature is having passive cooling most of the time, its not a technical limitation.
Bbq.of.DooM 3rd March 2008, 08:38 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bindibadgi
The energy produced is so minute though and with every conversion you lose efficiency.

Way to pop my bubble.

I know, but still.
Orlix 3rd March 2008, 09:36 Quote
This is great... I would agree with many people that this might not be the best slution for most people, even it might not be worth it due to its 60° limitation. The important point here is that MSi is trying new technologies and hopefully this will encourage others to experiment and bring innovation.
Tomm 3rd March 2008, 21:41 Quote
Stirling, Stiring or Sterling?
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