CES 2020 is fast approaching, and manufacturers often like to have a few surprises in store. There’s a rumor that Intel will unveil a new laptop cooling method at the show, with cooling performance gains of 25-30 percent — though that may only be in comparison to existing fanless designs.
According to DigiTimes:
Traditionally, thermal modules are placed in the compartment between the keyboard exterior part and the bottom shell as most key components that generate heat are located there. But Intel’s design will replace the traditional thermal modules with a vapor chamber and attach it with a graphite sheet that is placed behind the screen area for stronger heat dissipation.
The hinges will also need to be re-designed to allow the graphite sheet to go through in order to conduct heat.
This is a little hard to unpack. First of all, there absolutely is a type of graphite that can be used for thermal transfer applications, and it’s got far better performance than copper. It’s called annealed pyrolitic graphite and it’s far more thermally conductive than copper or aluminum. APG is already used in high-end electronics manufacturing. At first glance, it sounds like APG has to be what Digitimes is talking about… except APG has a whole lot of properties which make it fundamentally unsuited for a hinge.
DigiTimes specifically states that the graphite sheet in question passes through the laptop hinge. Even assuming that “sheet” is meant to translate into “wires,” annealed pyrolitic graphite has very poor mechanical properties. It’s extremely conductive, but it’s also fragile and will not withstand rough treatment of any kind. In fact, it’s normally encapsulated in a layer of protective aluminum or copper. Instead of putting APG directly in-contact with a heat source, there are vias from the heat source that carry heat downwards, into a layer of APG, as shown below:
Boyd Corp, the company that owns the k-Core technology above, has positioned it for use in aerospace, satellites, avionics, and military aircraft, which strongly suggests that a cooler like this would be out of an enthusiast’s price range. On the other hand, Boyd also has an existing business building coolers for Intel.
DigiTimes states that the design “will allow vendors to create fanless notebooks and can further shrink notebooks’ thickness.” It’s also supposed to have applications for both foldable and clamshell notebooks (though foldable notebooks aren’t even a thing yet). The tech is also supposedly limited to a 180-degree folding design.
A lot of these pieces could at least theoretically fit together but I’m wondering if the solution has been described properly. I can absolutely believe that Intel has a new cooling module with a better vapor chamber design. The reference to fanless designs could be a reference to the k-Core cooler Boyd has built. How that cooler would interact with laptop hinges — and why anyone would ever want to seriously try to run a cooling solution through a laptop hinge… I’m willing to be convinced, but I don’t understand it at first glance. Given that hinges are definitionally weak points of failure, the last thing I’d think any company would ever do is put part of the cooling solution in it.
We’ll find out in a few weeks.
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