How Does A Computer System Generate So Much Heat?

How Does A Computer System Generate So Much Heat?

It is arguably the most commonly known law of physics, that heat is produced by motion. The motion of atoms and molecules constantly moving together creates heat and this takes place in absolutely everything in this world. One of the most apparent examples of motion creating heat in the modern age is when we look at computer systems.

Internal fans:

For those who do not know a lot about electronic goods the constant humming noise of a desktop computer of a Playstation games console is an annoyance that will never be fully understood. The simple explanation is that these types of electrical devices rely on internal fans in order to prevent their internal moving parts from creating too much heat for the device to carry on work or much much worse to create so much heat it starts a fire.

Problems with large systems:

The small scale example of a laptop or of a domestic computer is one that can be related to by most people and gives a good indication of the problem and how manufacturers go about combating the problem. However, the real problems lie when you take into consideration a large commercial sized computer system that is required to power the database for an entire office block or to provide the internet for a business of endless size, of which there are thousands around the world.

The problem with these computer systems is that they incorporate hundreds of different devices that are required to be kept close together in order to do the job that they are designed to do. In fact, in the majority of data centres these individual devices are stacked on top of each other, both to save space in the building and also to save costs and resources spent on wires and extensions.

How to reduce excessive heat:

The big problem with this is that it is not only a large collection of devices all producing their own heat in an enclosed space, which creates a lot of heat, but having them all together in such a tight space means there is nowhere for the heat to go. The key to reducing the heat produced by a device is to ensure that it has enough space in which to disperse. A good example of this is next time that you use your Playstation cover up the fan and you will soon see that it will quickly begin to make a louder and louder sound. This is an indication of the fan trying harder to disperse the heat by increasing the RPM of the blades as it has nowhere to move the heat to.

In data centres there is a solution to the problem that in its own confusing and incoherent way adds heat to the system. Data centre cooling systems are in the own way devices that produce heat which is added to the mix; however they are designed to displace the heat of the other devices using fans. This works well enough at the moment to keep these kinds of systems working but soon it will be time for a new development to come into play. All indications so far point towards water aided cooling to be the future of the technology.

Image Credit: Flickr.

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