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Apple's 'ionic wind generator' may one day replace mechanical computer fans

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday issued Apple a patent for a cooling system that blows ionized air through an electronic device, controlling its path by creating electromagnetic fields that can be dynamically adjusted to direct cooling where it's needed most.

Ionic Wind Pump System
Ionic wind pump with air being deflected toward critical heat zones. | Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,305,728 for "Methods and apparatus for cooling electronic devices," describes a system in which the direction of ionized air moving through a computing device is deflected by either an electric or magnetic field. Currently, mechanical fans pull in air and push it through predetermined physical paths within a computer, usually over passive heat exchangers, and out through an exhaust port.

Driving the air in Apple's system is the ionic wind generator, basically a solid-state air mover based on "corona discharge--an electrical discharge near a charged conductor caused by the ionization of the surrounding air." The system is comprised of a corona electrode, a collector electrode and a high voltage power supply. When voltage is applied to electrodes, an electric field is created and causes particles in the surrounding air to take on a charge, or become ionized. An electric field propels the charged particles toward the collector electrode, which collide with other neutral particles as they move to create to generate "bulk air movement."

As the ionized air moves through the device, it can be deflected or redirected by a "deflection field generator," which can be a magnet or electromagnet. The magnitude of deflection is governed by the Lorentz force, or force on a charged particle from an electromagnetic field, which can be varied by the deflection field generator.

Ionic Wind Generator
Illustration of charged particles (110) colliding with neutral particles (108) as they are moved
from the corona electrode (102) to the collector electrode (104) in an ionic wind generator.


By employing standard issue heat sensors, the ion wind pump and deflection field generator system can direct cooling air to high temperature areas like the CPU or GPU.

The system also solves another problem associated with always-on mechanical fans, the so-called "no slip" condition at the "surface and the mean free stream velocity at the outer reaches from the surface" of a component. When such a condition arises, it creates a boundary layer of air over a component, making heat transfer more difficult. By modulating the rate of deflection, or time in which air flow passes over a component, the system creates eddy currents and turbulent flows to disturb the boundary layer.

Finally, the ionized air exits the device through a vent that is in the path of the ionic pump's normal air flow.

Deflection Field Generator
Illustration of air being directed via deflection field generators.


Interestingly, the invention notes that the system is not limited to large desktops and laptops, but in mobile devices such as cell phones and media players as well.

Although such ion wind pump technologies are used in specialized industrial and laboratory settings, a solution has not yet been presented in a consumer device. Apple has shown that it is actively looking to solve issues related to cooling internal components, including noise reduction as seen with the asymmetrical fans in both MacBook Pro with Retina display models (1, 2), however it is unknown if the company will implement the solid state generator any time soon.
post #2 of 37
Everybody knows Apple is just a design and marketing company. I wish they wouldn't waste the resources of the Patent Office with these fake ideas.
post #3 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Everybody knows Apple is just a design and marketing company. I wish they wouldn't waste the resources of the Patent Office with these fake ideas.

 

Sarcasm detected.


Edited by Ireland - 11/6/12 at 4:12am
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #4 of 37

Corona wires can produce ozone, which is a strong oxidant and potentially damaging biologically. Guess Apple has considered this issue. Ozone is the 'metallic odour' often produced by photocopiers and laser printers, particularly when warming up.

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post #5 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

Corona wires can produce ozone, which is a strong oxidant and potentially damaging biologically. Guess Apple has considered this issue. Ozone is the 'metallic odour' often produced by photocopiers and laser printers, particularly when warming up.

 

Laser printer factories can cause cancer from ozone, if I recall correctly.

Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #6 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathillien View Post

At first glance I read:
Iconic Wind Generator
Say what?
Aha lol.gif

Anyway Wow, controlling charged particles with EM field 1rolleyes.gif what an invention.

Apparently you just glanced at the entire story.

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post #7 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Everybody knows Apple is just a design and marketing company. I wish they wouldn't waste the resources of the Patent Office with these fake ideas.

Most companies in the technology sector are design and marketing companies.  Microsoft is a prime example, so is Dell, so is HP, so are most companies that have their products assembled in other countries.  Most clothing companies are design and marketing companies.

 

It's a popular business model due to labor costs in other countries.  It's how a LOT of businesses are done now.

 

Obviously, this is an idea that they think might be used in a part of their computer design.  Are you an engineer that has tested this design to come up with your conclusion that it's a fake idea? Or are you just doing it because you didn't think of it?  I'm not sure of your motives.

post #8 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post

 

Laser printer factories can cause cancer from ozone, if I recall correctly.

This is not producing OZONE gas from what it looks like, this is more like an ionizer which are used in air purifies, a little different system. i doubt this will generate enough ozone to be noticeable.   Both kind of look the same because of wires being used, but is a slightly different system from what it states on wikipedia for Ionizers.  At least, that's my source.  I'm not an engineer, but I can read.  Anyone with REAL experience on this subject that has tested the Apple patent for ozone levels? 

post #9 of 37
Remember Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image? No fan air purifier with the same technique. I had one of those. The problem? It needs cleaning all the time and does not clean the air effectively.
post #10 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flaneur View Post

Everybody knows Apple is just a design and marketing company. I wish they wouldn't waste the resources of the Patent Office with these fake ideas.

Do you know there are a lot of fabless semiconductor companies?  They outsource their mfg to other companies.  HP doesn't make their printers in their factories, they are made by other companies like Foxconn, same with Dell.  Most clothing companies outsource their mfg.  

 

It's a way that companies can compete.  Nothing wrong with it, it's just a different than the typical design/mfg/market that companies typically had back in the olden days.

 

China has been getting their "ACT" together in terms of mfg products.  They are getting quite good at it.

 

These days, you almost HAVE to outsource your mfg.  It doesn't necessarily have to all go to China, it's just that for certain types of mfg/assembly work China is the most likely choice.

post #11 of 37

Not my field, though I do use EM-deflected ion-beam technology (mass spectrometers). Sounds like a brilliant idea. Go Apple! 

post #12 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Are you an engineer that has tested this design to come up with your conclusion that it's a fake idea? Or are you just doing it because you didn't think of it? I'm not sure of your motives.

 

Do you know there are a lot of fabless semiconductor companies?

 

Whoooooosh!!

post #13 of 37

@ Ireland : Likewise, but it's not sarcasm, it's irony. Sarcasm is easy to detect, irony can be missed (esp. by Americans, who tend to take things on face value). 

--

"Irony must not be confused with sarcasm, which is direct: sarcasm means precisely what it says, but in a sharp, caustic, ... manner." (Partridge, Eric (1969). Usage and Abusage: A Guide to Good English.)

post #14 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post

Remember Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image? No fan air purifier with the same technique. I had one of those. The problem? It needs cleaning all the time and does not clean the air effectively.

 

It does not clean the air effectively but it needs to be cleaned all the time? 1confused.gif

 

I had a similar ionic air cleaner, seemed to work pretty good.

post #15 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by IQatEdo View Post

Corona wires can produce ozone, which is a strong oxidant and potentially damaging biologically. Guess Apple has considered this issue. Ozone is the 'metallic odour' often produced by photocopiers and laser printers, particularly when warming up.

I wish I had known that when I purchased an Ionic Breeze air purifier in the early '00s. I felt like I was getting sick every time I turned it on. I only realized the problem after a couple hundred bucks a little research. not many years later, The Sharper Image was out of business.

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For your sake, I hope you're right.
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post #16 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by winstein2010 View Post

Remember Ionic Breeze from Sharper Image? No fan air purifier with the same technique. I had one of those. The problem? It needs cleaning all the time and does not clean the air effectively.


It worked well enough in my opinion, but cleaning the blades was always a royal pain! If Apple is going to employ something like that, they better make it MUCH easier to clean. However, from what I've seen of this kind of technology is that it's weak, certainly no where near the kind of air pushed by today's mechanical means.

post #17 of 37
So in other words...

Current fans are too thick, noisy and consume too much power and Apple is trying to fix that.
post #18 of 37
Originally Posted by maddog_uk_69 View Post
Whoooooosh!!

 

Hey, it's the sound of an ionic wind generator.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #19 of 37

What is new?

How does this differ from the Dyson fan? Presumably there must be something, in order to get a patent.

post #20 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by z3r0 View Post

So in other words...
Current fans are too thick, noisy and consume too much power and Apple is trying to fix that.

In the new MBPs what other moving parts are there besides the fan?

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post #21 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by drblank View Post

Most companies in the technology sector are design and marketing companies.  Microsoft is a prime example, so is Dell, so is HP, so are most companies that have their products assembled in other countries.  Most clothing companies are design and marketing companies.

It's a popular business model due to labor costs in other countries.  It's how a LOT of businesses are done now.

Obviously, this is an idea that they think might be used in a part of their computer design.  Are you an engineer that has tested this design to come up with your conclusion that it's a fake idea? Or are you just doing it because you didn't think of it?  I'm not sure of your motives.

Actually, I agree with you. I left off the /s sarcasm tag (thanks Ireland) to my comment, sorry. It was 2 a.m., when you kind of feel ironic (thanks enzos) about everything, and I thought everyone would see it the same way.

Big mistake. Text just doesn't convey tone or mood very well. I was making fun of those who say Apple doesn't invent anything, they just repackage the ideas of others. Such a persistent meme—you still see it everywhere, mostly in non-Apple forums. I'd like to see it go away for another reason: repackaging has been shown by Apple to be a high art in itself. I can't say enough about what they've been doing with aluminum as a "pacaging material." They're replacing plastic is what they're doing.

But clearly they do a fair amount of inventing as well. There were new hints about R&D when they made Bob Mansfield head of Technology. Is this a new concept for Apple about themselves? What are they going to do with that research facility in Israel. And so on.
post #22 of 37
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post
In the new MBPs what other moving parts are there besides the fan?

 

The hinge, which Apple's slowly removing via the iPad.

Originally posted by Relic

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #23 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by z3r0 View Post

So in other words...
Current fans are too thick, noisy and consume too much power and Apple is trying to fix that.
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

In the new MBPs what other moving parts are there besides the fan?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The hinge, which Apple's slowly removing via the iPad.


A brilliant chain of reasoning in three parts, starting with an ironic remark.

Edit: I'm not being sarcastic.
post #24 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

The hinge, which Apple's slowly removing via the iPad.

You're thinking outside the box, — well, on the box — whereas I was thinking inside the box. There are also the keyboard keys and trackpad that have moving parts. Like the Home Button on iDevices I hope these are never removed.
Edited by SolipsismX - 11/6/12 at 7:49am

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

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post #25 of 37
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post
There are also the keyboard keys and trackpad that have moving parts. Like the Home Button on iDevices I hope these are never removed.

 

I believe that Apple products will always support physical keyboards, but not that they'll always ship with them.

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Originally posted by Relic

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post #26 of 37

There used to be the little button to see how much battery was left without turning on the machine, LEDs through tiny holes (but that is another article)

post #27 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nathillien View Post

At first glance I read:

Iconic Wind Generator

Say what?

Aha lol.gif

 

Anyways. Wow, controlling charged particles with EM field 1rolleyes.gif what an invention.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jd_in_sb View Post


Apparently you just glanced at the entire story.


I think the only part of this that is new is the electro-magnetic control mechanism. Various companies have demonstrated passive ion cooling in laptops and other devices for years now.

Here's a really good article from 2009 about the tech.

http://www.technologyreview.com/news/413519/a-laptop-cooled-with-ionic-wind/

post #28 of 37
It would be good if they could figure out a way to convert wasted heat back into electricity efficiently. There must be a way to improve the efficiency beyond 15-20%:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919135310.htm

Think if they could get even 50% of the CPU heat back into electricity to power it.

I like the idea of using fanless airflow too as long as it's powerful enough and doesn't waste a lot of electricity and it will definitely be of use in mobile devices where a fan doesn't make sense.
post #29 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tallest Skil View Post

 

I believe that Apple products will always support physical keyboards, but not that they'll always ship with them.

 

Only thing that could be considered a moving part after that are the speakers. Though I haven't seen anything that can produce sound without vibrations.

 

Maybe electrical impulses to the brain is the solution 1wink.gif

 

Edit: Hmm... Google pulls up a thermophone might be something to look into http://qedradiation.scienceblog.com/33137/thermophones-produce-sound-without-vibration/

 

To be more precise thermoacoustic:

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=igHmU7yLy5w

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V-fKHf4MjnM


Edited by z3r0 - 11/6/12 at 9:51am
post #30 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by MACTSW View Post

How does this differ from the Dyson fan? Presumably there must be something, in order to get a patent.

 

The Dyson fan does actually have blades. They're just hidden inside the base and the air blown out through a groove in the circular ring, which entrains air in the center of the ring.

 

I don't think ionic "fans" are as efficient at moving air per watt as regular fans. I wish Apple would look into piezoelectric fans. They've existed for about four decades and have been known as more efficient than standard electromagnetic fans.

post #31 of 37

This will come in handy when Apple releases their quad-core 64-bit ARM-based MacBook Air.

Performance-tuned ARM SoCs will probably run hotter than the low-power versions in iOS devices.

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post #32 of 37
I remember I had one of those Sharper Image 'Ionic Breeze' air purifiers. The ionized air destroyed photos printed out by my inkjet printer. I hear it's also what HP uses to torture-test ink printouts for rapid aging tests.
post #33 of 37
Those Ionic Breeze air purifiers DID produce ozone:

http://www.ehow.com/about_5598114_ionic-breeze-ozone-dangers.html
post #34 of 37
My god, without this device they'd have to use heat pipes for passive cooling, and that would be... sensible. Wait, what's the point exactly?
post #35 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marvin View Post

It would be good if they could figure out a way to convert wasted heat back into electricity efficiently. There must be a way to improve the efficiency beyond 15-20%:
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120919135310.htm
Think if they could get even 50% of the CPU heat back into electricity to power it.
I like the idea of using fanless airflow too as long as it's powerful enough and doesn't waste a lot of electricity and it will definitely be of use in mobile devices where a fan doesn't make sense.

You start running into a thermodynamic problem pretty quickly. Even at 100 C, you can't possibly recover 50% of the energy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_efficiency
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post #36 of 37
Very misleading article really. Yes an ionic solution allows you to move air where it is required however a well designed computer has predictable cooling requirements so this feature is slightly unnecessary.

As for much of the rest of the article it is based on fairly poor science - we aren't likely to see high voltage sources in smartphones due to space restrictions, not to mention that given smartphone chipsets are tending towards lower and lower power ratings the cooling requirements step down too. Finally the boundary layer section is misleading in that it implies that boundary layers are not always present in a moving flow (which they are) and that this is the only way to achieve a turbulent boundary layer (which it isn't).
post #37 of 37
Quote:
Originally Posted by jragosta 
You start running into a thermodynamic problem pretty quickly. Even at 100 C, you can't possibly recover 50% of the energy:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thermal_efficiency

The heat that comes from a CPU is very localised and is directly transferred into a heatsink that is attached using thermal paste. Surely they can at least have some sort of thermovoltaic device in the heatsink that generates electricity. The efficiency should be down to getting a material to convert that heat into electricity as close to the CPU as possible.

There seems to be a new type of fan coming out that could improve cooling for desktop systems at least:

http://hexus.net/tech/news/cooling/41489-spinning-sandia-cpu-cooler-30-times-efficient/

I like the idea of having no mechanical parts though.
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