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Crystals Growing out of Computers?

No, that was just my attention grabbing title, but this does involve crystals inside of computers.

Crystals can do many things, like make stunning chandeliers, fashion elegant earrings, look cool on a desk… okay, so mostly they are just novelty crafting items. But recently, the University of Illinois and the University of Texas are researching an interesting functional application of crystals. They are attempting to engineer crystals that can act as a superior cooling material for your CPU inside of computers. While they don’t have any health application, contrary to what alternative-medicine, pseudo-science may claim, crystals might be able to be more than just a neat geological trinket (other than their application in photonics).

Currently, we have truly come about as far as we can with fans and heat-sinks which are generally made out of copper or aluminum. Copper because it has excellent thermal conductivity, and aluminum because it is a cheaper alternative to copper. Heat will transfer from the silicon CPU to the heatsink, which has long fins to extend the heat outwards and to allow cool air to pass through quickly cooling down and dissipating the heat.

The past decade or so, heatsinks require a fan to make this process happen more quickly. Now, we have even moved to a new “liquid-cooling” method in which the transfer of CPU heat isn’t through the fins of a heatsink, but instead, a constant stream of liquid pumped through a tube. Because our processors are becoming more powerful and generating more heat, we need to find at least one other alternative solution that is possibly more effective than the others.

Crystals may be the answer. How cool is that?

…sorry for the pun.

The new process currently being researched creates a material with amazing heat management properties: a synthetic boron-arsenide crystal. This crystal isn’t naturally-occurring, so it needs to be grown using a process called “chemical-vapor transport”. The Boron element is combined with arsenic while both in a vapor state, then cooled and condensed into crystals. The resulting crystal actually works three times better than even the best heat-dissipaters on the market. While the synthesis of a crystal that has superior cooling capabilities is quite remarkable, the feasibility of large-scale production is still yet to be determined, however, it’s the beginning stages of a new possibility of future computing.

Now we just need to figure out how they can power a lightsaber.

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