Ever wondered about the source of that humming sound coming from your computer? It's most likely the fan that tries to ventilate the internal components. That's a typical cooling system.
I am not a rocket scientist, but generally speaking, as electronic components get tinier and more powerful, the amount of heat they generate gets proportionately higher. This is due to the simple fact that there's just not enough surface for the heat to dissipate quickly enough. That's why all computers' processors and high-end video cards come with a heat sink with a fan on top. Take this heat sink away and you'd fry the component in a matter of seconds.
Now bring these little advanced devices into space, where there's no air or moisture to help conduct the heat, and you'll have an even bigger challenge. And that's exactly what NASA has been facing.
According to NASA's Jeff Didion, a thermal engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center, in the world of electronics, thermal control is always one of the limiting factors. He has been collaborating with Jamal Seyed-Yagoobi, a professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology in Chicago, to partner with the U.S. Air Force and National Renewable Energy Laboratory to find ways to push the envelope of thermal-control barriers.
The result is the new electrohydrodynamic (EHD)-based thermal control technology, unveiled yesterday, that promises to make it easier and more efficient to remove heat from small spaces. This solution is meant to address a particular challenge for engineers building advanced space instruments and microprocessors that could fail if the heat they generate is not removed.… Read more