The quest to find more efficient methods for cooling computers is almost as high on scientists\u2019 agendas as the desire to discover better battery chemistries.\nMore cooling is crucial for reducing costs. It would also allow for more powerful processing to take place in smaller spaces, where limited processing should be crunching numbers instead of making wasteful heat. It would stop heat-caused breakdowns, thereby creating longevity in components, and it would promote eco-friendly data centers \u2014 less heat means less impact on the environment.\nRemoving heat from microprocessors is one angle scientists have been exploring, and they think they have come up with a simple, but unusual and counter-intuitive solution. They say that running a variant of a Light Emitting Diode (LED) with its electrodes reversed forces the component to act as if it were at an unusually low temperature. Placing it next to warmer electronics, then, with a nanoscale gap introduced, causes the LED to suck out the heat.\n\n\u201cOnce the LED is reverse biased, it began acting as a very low temperature object, absorbing photons,\u201d says Edgar Meyhofer, professor of mechanical engineering at University of Michigan, in a press release announcing the breakthrough. \u201cAt the same time, the gap prevents heat from traveling back, resulting in a cooling effect.\u201d\nThe researchers say the LED and the adjacent electrical device (in this case a calorimeter, usually used for measuring heat energy) have to be extremely close. They say they\u2019ve been able to demonstrate cooling of six watts per meter-squared. That\u2019s about the power of sunshine on the earth\u2019s surface, they explain.\nInternet of things (IoT) devices and smartphones could be among those electronics that would ultimately benefit from the LED modification. Both kinds of devices require increasing computing power to be squashed into smaller spaces.\n\u201cRemoving the heat from the microprocessor is beginning to limit how much power can be squeezed into a given space,\u201d the University of Michigan announcement says.\nMaterials Science and cooling computers\nI\u2019ve written before about new forms of computer cooling. Exotic materials, derived from Materials Science, are among ideas being explored. Sodium bismuthide (Na3Bi)\u00a0could be used in transistor design, the U.S. Department of Energy\u2019s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory says. The new substance carries a charge and is importantly tunable; however, it doesn\u2019t need to be chilled as superconductors currently do.\nIn fact, that\u2019s a problem with superconductors. They unfortunately need more cooling than most electronics \u2014 electrical resistance with the technology is expelled through extreme cooling.\nSeparately, researchers in Germany at the University of Konstanz say they soon will have superconductor-driven computers without waste heat. They plan to use electron spin \u2014 a new physical dimension in electrons that could create efficiency gains. The method \u201csignificantly reduces the energy consumption of computing centers,\u201d the university said in a press release last year.\nAnother way to reduce heat could be to replace traditional heatsinks with spirals and mazes embedded on microprocessors. Miniscule channels printed on the chip itself could provide paths for coolant to travel, again separately, scientists from Binghamton University say.\n\u201cThe miniaturization of the semiconductor technology is approaching its physical limits,\u201d the University of Konstanz says. Heat management is very much on scientists\u2019 agenda now. It\u2019s \u201cone of the big challenges in miniaturization."