For a long, long time, PCs have been chasing the idea of “no moving parts” as a platonic ideal for efficiency and reliability. And for just as long, active cooling has been an impediment to this goal: for high-powered electronics, you just can’t beat a fan and moving air for cooling stuff down. Or can you? Frore Systems’ AirJet is a radical solid-state approach to active cooling, and Gordon has the scoop at CES 2023.
Frore’s founder and CEO Seshu Madhavapeddy was kind enough to give PCWorld the low-down on this emerging tech, which has the potential to upend the way high-powered laptops are built. The “magic” of AirJet is a combination of exotic materials, geometry, and physics: the 2.8mm chip has cavities in the top full of vibrating membranes, which blast cool air across the heat spreader underneath, cooling down a CPU or other component. Despite the miniscule dimensions, the AirJet can send individual air particles whooshing over the heat spreader at up to 200 kilometers per hour.
It seems impossible, but the results speak for themselves. AirJet’s CES demonstration showed its “Mini” chip pushing air across a conventional fan and pushing up a ping-pong ball in a way that can’t be denied, and indeed, can replicate the cooling power of old-fashioned spinning blades. In fact, the back pressure — the amount of force created by the moving air — generated by the AirJet is equal to a fan more than ten times its size. The AirJet is also silent and potentially dust-proof.
The potential here is enormous. One of the biggest limiting factors in the performance of thin laptops is the thermal profile: you simply can’t shove a desktop-class chip into a laptop and run it at full performance without making it thick as a brick (or setting it on fire). But with solid-state cooling at a fraction of the size of even the most advanced conventional active cooling systems, those limitations start to disappear.
According to Madhavapeddy, two 1-watt AirJet units can account for 5 watts of cooling. Thus it could double the thermal limit of a fanless thin-and-light, from 10 watts to 20 watts with one larger “Pro” unit. The system has been scaled at up to 28 watts in a silent, fanless laptop. For integration with more conventional designs, the AirJet can also be installed with a vapor chamber to put it to the side of a processor instead of directly on top.
AirJet expects the first devices with its cooling systems to debut by the end of the year. Check out the video for the full technical breakdown. And for more looks at the future of PC tech, be sure to subscribe to PCWorld on YouTube!
Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.