• United States

Start-up to control chip cooling

May 27, 20042 mins
Data Center

* Cooligy tries to get processors to chill

A start-up in Mountain View, Calif., is developing a cooling technology that will make chips that aren’t too hot to handle.

As microprocessors have gotten faster and smaller, they’ve also become too hot to use in server designs. Intel allegedly abandoned its Tejas microprocessor work because of heat and leakage concerns.

Cooligy has created water-cooled chips in which small amounts of water pass through specially designed microchannels on the back of the chip, dissipating the heat. As much as a cup of water washes over the chip each minute. This water-cooled radiator is the size of two decks of cards. A fan expels the heat out of the computer.

Cooligy’s technology, dubbed Active Microchannel Cooling, draws from the field of microfluidics, where fluid moves through small rivulets in micro-circuitry. These channels are called microelectromechanical systems.

Cooligy is targeting its products at on-demand computing and enterprise-size data centers.

The three-year-old company uses technology that was developed in Stanford University’s mechanical engineering department. Cooligy’s management team comes from companies such as Intel and Corning. It is funded by Mayfield Ventures, Mohr Davidow Ventures and Granite Ventures.

The technology uses three elements: channels in a Microchannel Heat Collector that carry heat-absorbing fluid, a radiator that transfers heat to the air, and an Electrokinetic Pump that routes the fluid to the Microchannel Heat Collector. Each channel is 20 to 100 microns wide.

This technology is an alternative that could replace traditional heat sinks, which exhaust heat close to the chip being cooled.

Water-based cooling isn’t a new science. It is used in mainframes and servers like the Cray X1 supercomputer in use at Oak Ridge National Laboratories.

It is new, however, when applied to lower-end servers, workstations and PCs – and Cooligy is not without competition. NanoCoolers, of which little is known, is working to chill down electronic devices. Its first product will be available in the first half of next year. Funded for $4 million, NanoCoolers is developing a fluid-filled device that will dissipate heat. Another start-up, Cool Chips (, is also involved in this market.