GE jet cooling tech could enable thinner, more energy-efficient gadgets

The same technology that optimizes air flow through jet engines could be applied toward enabling a new generation of thinner, cooler, more energy efficient gadgets.

That's the focus of an innovative project at GE Global Research, which is evaluating applications that would replace the cooling fans traditionally found in computers and electronics devices with "dual piezoelectric cooling jets."

The technology is just 3 millimeters thick (about the size of two stacked quarters). It works like a miniature bellows or set of lungs, contracting and expanding to suck in air and then expel it at high velocity. The technology gets its energy as alternating current flows through a computer's innards.

GE scientist Peter deBock, lead thermal systems engineer at GE Global Research, estimates that the technology could help add as much as 30 minutes of extra battery life to laptops or other devices, while allowing them to be much thinner than they are today. His observation is based on his team's tests on a retrofitted notebook computer.

"We had a lot of space left over," deBock said. "It can make the laptop thinner or allow adding more electronics."

GE got its first patent on this technology back in 2004. So far, it has licensed the concept to Fujikara LTD, a Japanese vendor of cooling devices. It also is using the same idea to keep things cool for its LED lighting technology.

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