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IBM, Thales, Bosch Research Electronics Cooling

IBM, Bosch and Thales have teamed up with research institutes and universities to reduce the carbon footprint of companies that rely on thermal management for electronics, according to Environmental Protection.

The Nanopack project has resulted in new micro- and nanotechnology-based thermal interface materials (TIMs) to increase heat transfer away from chips and other microelectronic components. These TIMs are designed to reduce demands on cooling systems, lower costs and reduce energy consumption incurred by companies with supercomputers or data centers, which can run hundreds and thousands of machines simultaneously.

The researchers have used new materials to develop prototype high-power amplifiers, thousands of which make up the phased array antennas of an aircraft radar system. These are then coated with thermal-conductive greases and adhesives composed of nanoscale micro-fillers, to improve heat transfer without the need for additional cooling.

Bosch, a global supplier of automotive and industrial technology, has used the Nanopack team’s grease and adhesive to reduce heat build-up in transistors contained in cars’ power steering units. Thales Avionics is researching thermal management for in-flight entertainment systems.

IBM is using the Nanopack grease, and technology known as the hierarchical nested channel – which uses microstructures to improve conductivity – in its Aqasar Supercomputer. The company says the supercomputer has an 85 percent smaller carbon footprint than comparable systems.

IBM has been applying much of its data center efficiency research to its own operations. Technologies used in its energy reduction efforts include one that produces real-time, 3D images to pinpoint so-called “heat sinks” and cooling leaks. Such initiatives helped the company save $29.7 million in energy expenses and conserve 272,000 MWh of electricity in 2010, according to the company’s 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report.

A number of other companies have been researching ways to improve thermal management of supercomputers and data centers. A few weeks ago Hewlett Packard unveiled Project Moonshot, an initiative to reduce data center energy use by up to 89 percent through the sharing of storage, networking, management, power and cooling across thousands of servers.

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