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Processor Cooling

Report for the practical course


Chemieingenieurwesen I
WS06/07
Z
urich, January 16, 2007

Students:

Francisco Jose Guerra Millan


fguerram@student.ethz.ch
Andrea Michel
michela@student.ethz.ch

Assistants:

Max Wohlwend
HCI D182.5
Neil Osterwalder
HCI E105

Abstract
Overheating is nowadays a huge challenge for the computer industry.
Without a cooling system, working on a computer would be barely impossible, due to the system crashing down continuously. The aim of this exc
periment was to study the heat transfer phenomenon by cooling an Intel
c

Celeron D 2.8Ghz processor by different means. This processor emitted
17,48 Js and 31,95 Js and had an efficiency of 76,15% and 70,69% at normal
c
and full load respectively.1 Two fan coolers (an Intel
original and a
c
Super-Silent), a ThermalTake
heat exchanger, two radiators (black and
white) and a water cooling system (operated at different flows) were used.
As for the water system, as expected, increasing the water flow results on
higher convection coefficients, meaning that the cooling capacity also increases. It was also possible to see the linear dependency between the flow
and the coefficient. Water is by far the best cooling system. After anac
lyzing different cooling devices, the Intel
original fan cooler resulted the
c
best one, followed by a Super-Silent
fan cooler. Surprisingly, a black rac
diator had a better cooling effect than a ThermalTake
heat exchanger
with an implemented fan.
1 Values

obtained with the block of copper.

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Contents
1 Introduction and Theory

2 Experimental Procedure

3 Results and Discussion


3.1 Block of copper . . . .
3.2 Water Cooling System
3.3 Cooling Devices . . . .
3.4 Comparison . . . . . .
4 Conclusions and Outlook

F. Guerra, A.Michel

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ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Introduction and Theory

Overheating is nowadays one of the most important problems. Not only as a


global matter, but also in our daily lives. As an example, computer processors
can reach extremely high temperatures and represent a physical danger for the
final user. To avoid fire and other damages, computers are programmed to crash
down when the processor reaches a certain temperature, causing considerable
loss of information. Therefore, CPU (Central Processing Unit) cooling devices
are essential for computer manufacturers to offer an optimal performance.
The aim of this experiment was to compare different CPU cooling devices
by measuring the heat emitted by the processor at normal and full CPU load.
To compare the different heat exchangers, the overall heat transfer coefficient
was calculated for each device.
By using different coolers it is also possible to observe the three different
heat transfer mechanisms, known as conduction, convection and radiation.
Conduction[9] is described as the flow of thermal energy through a solid from
a higher- to a lower-temperature region. Heat conduction occurs by atomic
or molecular interactions. Steady-state conduction is said to exist when the
temperature at all locations in a substance is constant with time, as in the case
of heat flow through a uniform wall. It can be expressed with the following
equation:
T
Q
= kA
(1.1)
t
x
where:
Q = heat [J]
t = time [s]
 W 
k = conductivity constant mK
 
A = transversal surface area m2
T = temperature [K]
 
x = thickness of the body through which the heat is passing m2

Convection[7] is heat energy transfer between a solid phase and a fluid phase
when there is a temperature difference between the fluid and the solid. Convection is a combination of conduction and the transfer of thermal energy by circulation or movement of the hot particles to cooler areas in a material medium.
This movement occurs from, to or within a fluid. Convection occurs in two
forms: natural and forced convection. It can be described as follows:
q = h (Ts T )

(1.2)

where:
 
q = heat flux rate Js


h = convection coefficient mW
2K
Ts = surface temperature [K]
T = ambient temperature [K]

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Radiation[4] is transfer of heat through electromagnetic radiation in the heat


spectrum. All objects radiate heat, unless they are at absolute zero. No medium
is necessary for radiation to occur; radiation works even in a perfect vacuum.
A prime example of this is the energy of the Sun, which travels through the
vacuum of space before warming the earth. The energy radiated is given by the
Stefan-Boltzmann Law:

Pr = eA T 4 Tc4
(1.3)
where:
 
Pr = net radiated power Js
e = emissivity []


= Stefan-Boltzmann constant = 5.67 108 mW
2K4
Tc = temperature of surroundings [K]
A general temperature profile is shown in Figure 1.1. The temperature
profile is normally linear. The heat flow occurs from the highest to the lowest
temperature zone. Therefore, to calculate the heat transfer we basically only
need a temperature difference.

Figure 1.1: General temperature profile for heat transfer.


To calculate the heat emited by the processor, equation (1.4) was used.
For simplification purposes, it is assumed that the specific heat capacity is
temperature independent.
Z T
Q=m
cp dT
(1.4)
T0

where:
m = mass of the solid [kg] h
i
J
cp = specific heat capacity kgK
The efficiency of a determinate heat exchanger is calculated with the equation below:
Ptot q
=
100
(1.5)
Ptot
where:
= efficiency [%]
 
Ptot = overall computer power Js

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Experimental Procedure

c
c
To analyze the heat transfer phenomenon, a CPU with an Intel
Celeron
D 2.8Ghz processor was given. It was possible to fit different cooler systems
over the processor. Four thermometers to measure the processor and ambient
c
temperature were also provided. With a computer program called LabView
,
the temperatures were graphed on-screen live and the load for the processor
could be switched between normal (almost no CPU activity) and full (100%
CPU activity). With another single-purpose application, it was possible to see
the CPU and Main Board temperatures. This were measured internally and
due to the lack of information, it was unsure where exactly they were taken. As
an advice from Mr. Wohlwend those measurement were seen as doubtful and
were not used for the calculation of the results. A power meter was also used
to measure the power consumption of the computer. All the data gathered by
c
the computer was exported to an Excel
file for further use.
Due to the fast overheating of the processor, almost immediately after turning on the computer a cooler had to be placed over the processor to avoid a
sudden crash-down.
All measurement (except where indicated) were taken at normal and full
load. As a first step, the heat emitted was measured with a block of copper.
This step had to be preformed quite fast, because the copper can get extremely
c
hot very soon. After that, different cooling systems were analyzed; an Intel
c
c


Original fan cooler, a Super-Silent fan cooler, a ThermalTake heat exchanger
(without and with an implemented fan), a black and a white radiator and a water
cooling system (operated at different flows).
After placing a determinate cooler and finishing with its measurements, the
next one could be placed without turning off the computer. Its important to
mention, that this had to be done quickly, to avoid a crash-down, due to the
processor temperature going over 110 C. If this happened, the computer had
to be started again.

Figure 2.1: Schematically draw of the experiment layout.

Figure 2.1 shows a schematically representation of the different coolers used


c
c
in this experiment. A stays for the Intel
and Super-Silent
fan coolers, B
c

represents the ThermalTake without ventilator, C shows the black radiator
and D pictures the water cooling system. In the case of both fan coolers the
temperatures were measured in the ribs and in the metallic case of the computer.
c
For the case of the ThermalTake
and the radiators, they were measured near
the processor and in the coolest extremes of the device. For the water cooling

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

system temperatures were taken before and after the water had gone through
the plate over the processor.

Results and Discussion

c
With the help of Microsoft Excel
and the equations (1.2), (1.4) and (1.5)
the folowing results were obtained. The area of the heat transfer surface was
A = 0.0009m2 .

3.1

Block of copper

J
[10]), the mass of the block of copper
With the specific heat (cp = 0.385 gK
(m = 347.36g) and equation (1.4), it was possible to calculate the heat transfer
rate. Equation (1.5) was used to calculated the efficiency.
Table 3.1 shows the obtained results for normal and full load. The efficiency
obtained is surprisingly high, considering that no more than 30% of the power
gets lost in form of heat, while an engine looses approximately 70% to 80% of
the energy provided [8].

Table 3.1: Results for based on the heat transfered to a block of copper.
CPU mode
normal load
full load

Power
[W ]
73.3
109

 Jq 
s

17.48
31.95

[%]
76.15
70.69

It is clear to see, that the amount of heat transfered increases at full load.
This is, due to the higher power consumption of the computer while working at
full load.
Figure 3.1 shows the temperature profiles at normal and full load. It shows
the linear dependency between the temperature and the time. Therefore, adding
a trend-line allows us to calculate the heat per unit of time. The values of R2 ,
close to 1 indicate that our results are reliable.

3.2

Water Cooling System

The implemented water cooling system operated at the flow rates shown in
Tables 3.2 and 3.3. Using equation (1.2) the convection coefficient h and the
parameter hA were calculated. It is important to mention, that the obtained
values are calculated with the temperature difference of the water, but does not
consider the temperature of the plate where the real heat transfer takes place.
The results are shown in Tables 3.2 and 3.3.
At normal load (Table 3.2) h and hA clearly increase proportional to the
water flow. As expected, with a larger flow, the processor gets better cooled.
Nevertheless, at some point, this cooling capacity should reach a top value,
because the water can only take a determinate amount of heat.
At full load (Table 3.3) the trend for the values of h and hA is the same than
at normal load (Table 3.2). For this case, one could also expect a top value for
F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Figure 3.1: Temperature profiles for the block of copper at normal and full load.

Table 3.2: Results for the water cooling system at normal load.
Flow

mL

h 
 W

hA

W

m2 K

1.73
4.53
9.60
14.00
18.67

7.13
13.18
26.11
39.98
48.85

0.0064
0.0119
0.0235
0.0360
0.0440

the cooling capacity of the water system. The results show that this was not
yet reached.
Comparing Tables 3.2 and 3.3 it is possible to see, that the convection coefficient gets bigger at full processor load. An exception to this affirmation is
found at the flow rate of 1.73 mL
s .
From the Tables 3.2 and 3.3 it is possible to determine, that a higher value
of h or hA represents a better cooling effect.
Figure 3.2 shows the convection coefficient as a function of the water flow.
As said, h grows proportionally to the flow, but with the help of a trend-line it is
also possible to confirm that it is linearly proportional. The values of R2 near to
1 give a certain reliability to the assumption. Nevertheless it is possible to see,
that at normal load the trend could be reaching the mentioned top value. It is
not really possible to determine if the variation of the fourth point of the curve
is merely an experimental error or a reliable value. If the trends for normal and
full load are compared and detailed analyzed, it is possible to conclude at first
sight that the cooling effect is better at full load. Having said that a higher
value of h represents a better cooling, the line with the highest values should be
for the better cooling effect. This could also be interpreted on a different way.

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Table 3.3: Results for the water cooling system at full load.

Flow
mL

h 
 W

m2 K

1.73
4.53
9.60
14.00
18.67

6.79
14.27
28.21
41.50
54.55

0.0061
0.0128
0.0254
0.0373
0.0491

hA

W

Figure 3.2: Convection coefficient as a function of the water flow.

The results obtained are based on the temperature difference between the water
going into the heat exchange surface and the water going out of that area. The
real heat exchange between the processor and the implemented cooling system
(at the metal plate) is not being taken on account. Obviously, at full load, the
heat transfered from the processor to the convection plate will be higher. This
causes the water to get warmer at full load and therefore the T results bigger.
When entered into equation (1.2) the resulting values get bigger.This does not
strictly means that the the processor had a lower temperature.
J
With the specific heat (cp = 4.1813 gK
[5]), the flow rate and equation (1.4),
it was also possible to calculate the heat emitted by the processor per unit of
time. Equation (1.5) was used to calculated the efficiency.
Table 3.4 summarizes the results for the efficiency of the system based on
the water. For each flow the heat emitted and the efficiency were calculated.
Interestingly the results at 1.73 mL
s seem to be quite different than all the other
flows, but are very similar to the results obtained with the block of copper (Table
3.1). Therefore it is assumed, that the most confident results are obtained at
lower flows. This deviation on the values can be because at a lower flow rate
the system works with a more accurate T . A mean efficiency was calculated

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Table 3.4: Results for the efficiency based on the heat transfered to the water.

Flow
mL
s

1.73
4.53
9.60
14.00
18.67
Mean

normal load
Power

 Jq 
[W ]
[%]
s
75.00 17.73 76.35
74.00 25.09 66.10
72.00 26.82 62.75
73.00 25.54 65.01
72.00 27.87 61.289
73.20 24.61 66.30

Power
[W ]
110.00
107.00
110.00
110.00
105.00
108.40

full load
q
J
s

34.02
42.35
45.36
44.98
45.63
42.47

[%]
69.07
60.42
58.76
59.11
56.55
60.78

at normal and full load. This values are lower than those obtained with the
block of copper, but this gets a little closer to the statement that an engine
looses approximately 70% to 80% of the energy provided [8]. For comparison
purposes, all the heat coefficients h and hA are calculated based on the results
obtained with the block of copper.

3.3

Cooling Devices

For this part, different cooling devices were compared. All of them work thanks
to the convection phenomenon and therefore equation (1.2) was used for the
calculations. It is important to mention, that in all cases, the heat transfer was
strictly done with the ambient air. For the fan coolers, the T was measured
between the ribs of the device and a temperature taken at the metallic case of
the computer. For the heat exchanger and the radiators the two temperatures
were measured at the nearest point possible to the processor and the opposite
c
extreme of the device. The fan implemented for the ThermalTake
was a 12V
fan opperated at 4V . Tables 3.5 and 3.6 show the obtained results.
Table 3.5: Results for the different cooling devices at normal load.
Cooler
c
Intel
c
Super-Silent
c
ThermalTake
c

ThermalTake w/fan
White radiator
Black radiator

h 
 W

hA

W

m2 K

3.24
1.49
0.48
0.64
0.47
0.68

0.0029
0.0013
0.0004
0.0006
0.0004
0.0006

Like previously mentioned, a high value of h or hA indicates a better cooling


c
capacity. As shown in Table 3.5 surprisingly, the original Intel
cooler is the
best one. Nevertheless it is clearly visible, that the two fan coolers are by far
c
the best. One can also notice, that the ThermalTake
works, as expected,
c

better with a fan. The ThermalTake used should theoretically be placed with

F. Guerra, A.Michel

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

the processor in an upright position (which was not the case). Being placed
horizontally, the convection effect within the ribs cannot take place as expected
for an optimal performance. Using a little fan, helps the air flow through the ribs
and provides the system with fresh air. As for the radiators, the heat transfer
takes place through the whole surface. It is well known, that the white color
absorbs more energy than the black. Therefore it is clearly visible, that the
black radiator has a better cooling effect. Interestingly the cooling capacity of
c
the black radiator is more or less the same than the one from the ThermalTake
with fan.
Table 3.6: Results for the different cooling devices at full load.
Cooler
c
Intel
c
Super-Silent
c

ThermalTake w/fan
Black radiator

h 
 W

hA

W

m2 K

6.41
4.62
1.70
2.22

0.0058
0.0042
0.0015
0.0020

Table 3.6 presents the results obtained for the different coolers at full CPU
load. The ThermalTake without the implemented fan and the white radiator
c
were not analyzed. In the case of the ThermalTake
, the ventilator was used
to simulate the optimal upright position. The measurements taken without it
were only to confirm the performance decreasing. As for the white radiator,
advised by Mr. Wohlwend, we skipped those measurements. Apparently, the
cooling effect is not strong enough, and reaching steady state would be rather
difficult, due to the system crashing down just before getting stable. The results
obtained at full load correspond to those obtained at normal load. Once again,
c
the Intel
fan cooler is the best one, followed by the Super-Silent. This two
are considerable superior than the others. At full load it is possible to see,
against the expectations, that the black radiator works quite better than the
c
.
ThermalTake

3.4

Comparison

To have a better overview of the results, all the cooling devices were compared
side by side at normal and full load. The water cooling system is by far the best
cooling method. Therefor only the results at the lowest flow were included in
the cooler devices comparison chart.
Figure 3.3 compares the cooling capacity of the different coolers analyzed
and the water cooling system at a flow rate of 1.73 mL
s , based on the convection coefficient. A higher value represents a higher cooling capacity and was
obtained due to a larger T . Like previously said, apart form the water, in
c
normal and full load, the Intel
original fan cooler is the best one. Once again,
the convection coefficient at full load is much bigger than at normal load. It
is important to remember, that it is due to the larger temperature differences.
While the processor gets much warmer at full load and the ambient air temperature remains more or less constant, the temperature gradient is bigger. A bigger
gradient induces a greater heat transfer. This does not represents in any matter,
F. Guerra, A.Michel

10

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

Figure 3.3: Comparison chart for the different cooler devices at normal and full
load.

that the processor temperature is lower. It is worth to mention that unlike the
other cooler devices, the convection coefficient for the water gets lower at full
processor load. This is, as previously said, an exception that only appears at
this flow rate.

Conclusions and Outlook

Cooling is not an easy task. Nevertheless it is a huge challenge for the future. In
this experiment it was possible to study the heat transfer phenomenon by cooling
a processor in different ways. Although different devices and a water cooling
system were used, at the end, the medium that receives the heat is the air. Also
for the water cooling system, the heat exchange was made between the water
and the ambient air. This gives an idea of the limitations to improve cooling
systems. Liquid nitrogen and acetone cooling systems are often mentioned, but
when implemented for real-life applications, the expectations get lost. This
techniques only work for short periods of time. As for future experimentations,
c
it would be interesting to study the ThermalTake
placed at its recommended
position, to see if its performance really improves considerably.

References
[1] Answers Corporation. heat conduction.
http://www.answers.com/topic/heat-conduction,
06/07.

December-January

[2] eFunda. Convection Theory in Heat Transfer.


http://www.efunda.com/formulae/heat transfer/convection/overview conv.cfm,
December-January 06/07.
F. Guerra, A.Michel

11

ETH Z
urich

Chemieingenieurwesen I, WS06/07

[3] QUICK-OHM K
upper & Co. GmbH. QUICK-COOL.
http://www.quick-cool.de/, December-January 06/07.
[4] R. Nave. Stefan-Boltzmann Law.
http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/thermo/stefan.html,
December-January 06/07.
[5] R.H. Perry and D.W. Green. Perrys Chemical Engineers Handbook.
McGraw-Hill, Inc., 7th edition, 1997.
[6] Unknown. Fouriers Law.
http://wwwrses.anu.edu.au/uli/Teaching/Heat/FouriersLaw.html,
December-January 06/07.
[7] Wikipedia. Convection.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Convection, December-January 06/07.
[8] Wikipedia. Engine efficiency.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Engine efficiency, December-January 06/07.
[9] Wikipedia. Heat conduction.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heat conduction, December-January 06/07.
[10] Wikipedia. Specific heat capacity.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Specific heat capacity,
06/07.

December-January

[11] Wikipedia. Stefan-Boltzmann law.


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stefan-Boltzmann law,
06/07.

December-January

[12] Wikipedia. W
armeleitung.
http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warmeleitung, December-January 06/07.
[13] M. Wohlwend and N. Osterwalder. K
uhlung eines Prozessors, WS 06/07.

F. Guerra, A.Michel

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