Keeping Your Computer Cool

PATENTED: RP startup has a solution to overheating at faster processing speed

By STEVE HART, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, September 13, 2007

Hard-core computer gamers always look for an edge, tinkering with their hardware to gain faster processing speeds. But super-charged computing — known as overclocking — generates heat that can cause crashes and permanently damage electronic components.

A Rohnert Park startup has patented new technology for cooling computers than can safely increase performance 25 to 45 percent, according to its inventor.

“For the gaming market, this is unique,” said Alan Cohen, and IT professional who founded Advanced Cooling Concepts with partner Christian Gunderson in 2005.

The technology isn’t exactly ready to hit store shelves. Advanced Cooling’s prototype is a small refrigeration unit and a jumble of tubes connected to a computer in the back room of Cohen’s home.

The technology hasn’t been independently tested, and Advanced Cooling doesn’t have a manufacturing partner.

But Cohen said he’s proven the technology works, and it could have applications well beyond the gaming market. The company’s system would cut costs of cooling large data centers, which use massive amounts of electricity, he said.

The two-person company is now looking for venture capital or licensing deals to help get the technology to market, Gunderson said.

Computer makers employ fans and heat sinks to keep their hardware from overheating. But faster, more powerful computers and servers are pushing the limits of cooling.

About 63 percent of the energy used in large data centers is for air cooling, according to a study by Hewlett-Packard Co.

The power consumption by data centers could double by 2011 as demand for high-speed digital processing grows.

Cohen, an avid gamer, became interested in the problem while seeking ways to super-charge his own computer. “You want to push the computer, but you ramp up the heat as you ramp up the power,” he said.

Liquid cooling is the fastest way to cut the temperature inside a computer, but it can cause condensation. “If you get moisture on the components, your computer’s dead,” he said.

Cohen found a way to apply liquid cooling without condensation, he said. The prototype circulates propylene glycol-based solution around the computer’s heat generating parts.

A water barrier keeps the components dry. Advanced Cooling was awarded a U.S. patent for the technology in August.

In addition to boosting computer performance, the system eliminates noisy fans and reduces energy costs, Cohen said.

Advanced Cooling plans to have a version of the system for computer gamers in the coming months.

“I believe the demand is going to be huge,” Cohen said.

You can reach Staff Writer Steve Hart at 521-5205 or steve.hart@pressdemocrat.com