During this IDF (Spring 2006) Intel officially demonstrated their water-cooling solution, called Intel Advanced Liquid Cooling Technology. This was really unexpected, since Intel is traditionally a very conservative chip maker, never paying too much attention to overclocking. Let’s take a look at Intel’s water-cooling solution.
Intel water-cooling solution has only two components: the radiator (a.k.a. heat exchanger), using a 120 mm fan, and the CPU block, which has a pump on top of it.
Intel put the radiator on the back of the computer case, to be the close to the CPU and thus making the pipes as short as possible. Because of that, you will need a new case in order to use Intel’s water-cooling system. By the way, if you pay attention in Figure 1 you will see that Intel is using rigid pipes instead of rubber hoses. On next page we will explain all technical reasons behind this choice.
As we said, the CPU block and the pump are assembled together in just one piece of plastic (PPS, Polyphenylene Sulphide, to be more exact), as you can see in Figure 3. On this figure, pay attention on the sealed input on the far left-hand side, which is used to fill the system with cooling liquid (the system comes already filled and the user doesn’t have to worry about filling it). The pipe in the center is the cool water input and the pipe on the right-hand side is the hot water output. So the cool water drops exactly in the middle of the block.
The CPU block is copper-made, as you can see in Figure 4.
Let’s go now into some more technical details on Intel’s water-cooling solution.
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As we mentioned, Intel’s water-cooling system has only two components, opposed to four in traditional systems. What they did was to put the pump on top of the CPU block and remove the reservoir. Intel explained us that in traditional systems the reservoir is only necessary because of water leakage. The main reason that water from the system leaks is found on the rubber hoses: they are very permeable. So, by changing the rubber hoses by metal pipes to carry water around, Intel was able to remove the reservoir.
Of course this change brought a side effect: Intel’s solution isn’t so flexible (literally). Actually this is exactly what Intel wanted. Instead of a difficult to assemble system targeted to DIY users, Intel wanted a system ready to use that could be easily assembled and required no maintenance, and that could be easily manufactured in high scale.
The cooling liquid is made of water with 35% of Propylene Glycol, and it is factory-sealed inside the system for its entire life. The user should not have to insert anything to the system to start using it and there is also no need to replace the cooling liquid for all its life.
In Figure 7 you see the flowchart for the Intel water-cooling system testing at its factory. First the motor is tested. Then vacuum is created inside the system to see if the system can hold it (if it does, the system goes ahead to the next step). Then Helium gas is inserted into the system and a mass spectrometry is made to check if there is leakage. At the fifth step the cooling liquid is inserted into the system and then the system is sealed and ready to be marketed.
Let’s take a look now on some important performance data.
In order to improve the ventilation inside the PC there is a duct between the fan and the radiator, as you can see in Figure 8. This approach created a 10 cfm airflow towards the chipset and the voltage regulator, helping cooling these components. Adding this duct decreased the radiator airflow by only 3 cfm, so losing 3 cfm on the radiator to gain 10 cfm inside the PC is a really great tradeoff.
All the examples given were for ATX cases, which Intel thinks it is more appropriate for overclockers. But nothing prevents the use of Intel Advanced Liquid Cooling Technology in BTX cases, as you can see in Figure 9. In this case, however, it replaces the TMA (Thermal Module Assembly), which is located in front of the case, not on its back.
A plastic duct covering the system is used to improve cooling from other parts, such as memory and chipset. Intel’s water-cooling solution installed on a BTX system provides a 101 cfm airflow to the PC (against 64 cfm using Intel’s reference design, i.e., regular fan) and provides a 470% airflow improvement towards the system memory and a 8% airflow improvement towards the chipset.
By the way, Intel Advanced Liquid Cooling Technology specs state that this system should provide a noise level below 4 BA, so it is a really quiet system.