Using Heat to Power Computers

Ever since the invention of computers, engineers and researchers have been attempting to work out how to deal with the heat that they give out so as to avoid malfunction and sudden shut down.

Why try to decrease the output of heat if it may be utilized as a source of energy?A study duo in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln had developed a “thermal diode” which could withstand temperatures of up to 330 degrees Celsius. Image courtesy of University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Rather than working on advanced heating technology or attempting to decrease the output of heat from the first position, two University of Nebraska-Lincoln engineers had flipped the problem upside down and created a new technique to place all of that unwanted renewable energy to good use.

“If you consider it, whatever you can do with energy you need to (also) be able to do with heat, as they are similar in a lot of ways,” said one of those researchers Sidy Ndao. “In principle, they are both energy carriers. If you could control warmth, you could use it to do computing and avoid the issue of overheating.”

In a paper, published recently in the journal Scientific Reports, Ndao and colleague Mahmoud Elzouka describe their nano-thermo-mechanical apparatus, known as a thermal diode, which is capable of operating in temperatures near 330 degrees Celsius (or 630 degrees Fahrenheit).

The ultimate aim is to make the apparatus — which Ndao requires for a “thermal computer”– immune to more than twice the heat (i.e., 700 degrees Celsius or even 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit), thereby opening the door to many distinct applications.

According to the writers, their invention “may be utilised in space exploration, such as investigating the center of the planet, for oil drilling, (such as) numerous programs. It may allow us to do research and process data in real time in places where we have not been able to do this before.”

It could also be employed in efforts to save energy — just as much as 60% of electricity generated from the United States goes up from the atmosphere as heating, which may, at least potentially, be used to power the the new apparatus

The logical next step will be to raise efficacy and demonstrate that the ability of this device to carry out computations and run a sense system experimentally.

Reasonable or not, nevertheless, Ndao dreams even bigger: “We wish to to produce the world’s first sustainable monitor,” he said. “Hopefully one day, it will be used to unlock the mysteries of outer space, explore and harvest our own planet’s deep-beneath-the-surface geology, also exploit waste heat for more efficient-energy utilization.”

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