• Apple Working on New Ways to Keep Macs Cool

    Four Apple patent applications were revealed this week, all covering new technology for cooling and heat control in computers, primarily laptops. The applications - including one involving a system of air flow sensors and another that uses the hinge of a laptop as a heat sink - were filed in September of last year, AppleInsider reports. While Apple files numerous patent applications each year, not all of the inventions find their way into actual products: Apple likes to keep control of what its geniuses come up with. As the company packs more powerful processors into its computers, though, heat dissipation is an increasing issue. So it's more likely than not that one or more of these technologies will be used in future Macs to help keep them from melting down.

    One invention involves the use of air flow meters and thermal sensors placed in open areas of a laptop's case to detect the speed and temperature of the air inside the chassis. If air flow slows (for example, in a case where one or more of the vents is blocked), the system could take that into consideration, either increasing the speed at which the fans spin or by reducing the performance of the processor so that it generates less heat.

    A separate application talks about using peripheral ports, such as USB, FireWire and Ethernet connections, as secondary vents to bring cooler air into the housing. According to the application, the computer case would be designed so that the location of the ports improves airflow in parts of the chassis where heat builds up. The vents would make use of a "hydrophobic material" to block liquids, but not air, from entering the case.

    Apple also filed for a patent on using heat-conductive assemblies to cool components inside the case of a laptop by dissipating the heat to the laptop's hinge. The component would be connected by means of a heat pipe to a graphite "heat spreader" that is partially wrapped around the shaft of the hinge. The heat spreader would be connected to a housing that would allow the heat to dissipate without causing the outside of the laptop to become too hot to the touch.

    The last application describes a "solid state cooling system" that uses - instead of fans or conductive materials - thermoelectric cooling through the so-called "Peltier effect." Named for French physicist Jean Charles Athanase Peltier, this effect describes the cooling or heating that happens when current is forced through a junction of two different metals. When current flows in one direction, it can cool the metal by as much as 5 C.
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