Friday, September 05, 2008

Straight into central heating

An article in the Economist about how water used to cool processors can be then be used for heating (Emphasis added).

According to Thomas Brunschwiler, a researcher at IBM’s laboratory in Zurich, when you build processors in this way you generate heat at about two kilowatts per cubic centimetre—more intensely than in a nuclear reactor and ten times more than in any other man-made device. That would destroy an uncooled chip within a fraction of a second.

Well, duh!

Its not just processors- water cooling can be used to improve the efficiency of solar cells as well. These days, mirrors are used to concentrate sunlight on them, which can make them very hot.
Supratik Guha, a researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Centre in Yorktown Heights, New York, has found that he can concentrate 2,300 times as much sunlight on a cell as nature normally provides, while maintaining that cell at a (relatively) cool 85°C. Without the cooling system, its temperature would rapidly exceed 1,500°C, causing it to melt. With cooling, the cells can manage an output of 70 watts a square centimetre—a record, according to IBM, and a demonstration that plumbing, too, can be a high-tech form of engineering.

Since the main economic (and environmental) downside of using a solar cell appears to be the energy which went into producing it, anything which gets more energy out of a cell is good news. This earlier article in the Economist mentions a company called SUNRGI which uses mirrors to concentrate light onto solar cells and claims to be able to generate power at less than 5 cents per kWh. They should get together with IBM, but I still want to see those vast solar farms covering the deserts. Orchards of silver flowers watching the Sun. This article in der Spiegel describes that image above

The left square, labelled "world," is around the size of Austria. If that area were covered in solar thermal power plants, it could produce enough electricity to meet world demand. The area in the center would be required to meet European demand. The one on the right corresponds to Germany's energy demand

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