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Apple seeks to patent liquid cooling for notebooks

updated 12:10 pm EST, Tue December 2, 2008

Apple liquid cooler patent

Apple has filed for patents on two different liquid cooling technologies, both intended to apply to future notebooks. Current MacBooks use air cooling, driven by internal fans; while this is sufficient, it is thought that future components -- such as faster video cards and quad-core CPUs -- may force Apple to use more efficient (and possibly quieter) cooling. Active and passive methods are being suggested.

Under the active method, coolant would be forced to pass over or near the circuits in question, through the combination of a pump, pipes and drivers. The coolant could be made to shift between liquid and gaseous phases, but alternately, fluid could be mixed with gas bubbles or metal particles in order to improve heat transfer. Heat would ultimately be dissipated into the air through fin stacks.

A passive technique, also likely to be cheaper, would still rely on a pump but would tie a simple cooling system to a passive heat sink. Heat would be dissipated through an aluminum plate, specifically one located behind the computer's display. This would in theory help alleviate a problem common with notebooks, in which it becomes impossible to rest a notebook on a person's lap due to a hot metal base.

by MacNN Staff



  1. testudo

    Joined: Dec 1969


    oh good!

    Maybe this time the design they come up with won't have the tendency to leak all over the internal components.

  1. lkrupp

    Joined: Dec 1969


    For once I agree

    It makes me want to puke to say this but testudo is correct on this one. My four year old Power Mac Dual 2.5/G5 sprang a leak. Luckily I caught it soon enough and it didn't blow the logic board or power supply. The cooling system and CPUs had to replaced as a unit as a single unit. The good ending to this story...Apple repaired it free even though it was a full year out of Applecare warrnty.

    Liquid cooling is not a good idea for laptops in my opinion. Think of the personal injury lawsuits when one of these babies leaks a toxic liquid on some user's legs.

  1. bobolicious

    Joined: Dec 1969



    ...sound like great ideas - maybe throw in a mini stirling engine to regenerate power with the heat loss...? :-) Wax is being studied for use in buildings for climate moderation...

  1. Feathers

    Joined: Dec 1969


    liquid laptop?

    Liquid in a laptop? Good luck with that one! Kind of ironic given that they've just placed sneaky moisture detectors inside the new macbooks. So, as usual, the Apple rule is that nothing is allowed inside your computer (including liquid) unless Apple puts it there, just like music and video!

  1. njfuzzy

    Joined: Dec 1969


    My experience

    In my experience, the liquid cooling Apple used in the Dual G5 PowerMacs was great. I never had a problem, after pushing the machine hard for years. I sold it to a friend, and it is still going strong to this day.

  1. corsair

    Joined: Dec 1969


    No way

    I skipped this when they put it in the G5 towers, thought no good could come of it. Sure enough, now we hear all about leaking G5 cooling systems. I'm not going to use an Apple liquid cooling system in a computer that actually gets mobile wear and tear.

  1. bjojade

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Will they not learn?

    Liquid cooling works great until it springs a leak. The same thing is said about hydraulic systems. Great transfer of power, but at some point, it WILL create a mess.

    With the G5 systems, we have seen quite a few of them spring leaks after around 4 years. The leaks cause massive damage, essentially costing the entire machine to be replaced. The non-liquid cooled machines aren't showing that type of expensive failure.

  1. rmoody

    Joined: Dec 1969


    4 years...

    Well, clearly you should have replaced the liquid cooled G5 well before the 4 year failure limit. I mean, what kind of good Apple customer are you anyway? psh!

  1. Guest

    Joined: Dec 1969



    Use ceramics Apple. They dissapate heat without requiring power for the pumps and possbile leaks. They are also very lightweight.

    Liquid cooling requires power, takes up space and adds weight.

  1. Bregalad1402

    Joined: Dec 1969


    Risky idea

    Thankfully my liquid cooled G5 hasn't sprung a leak yet, but the important word is yet. Many others with machines newer than mine haven't been as lucky.

    Putting a liquid cooling system into a notebook is a very risky proposition. The biggest potential problem isn't hot green goo burning your legs or staining your pants it's an electrical short that gets to the battery. Ever seen a lithium battery pack go up in flames? Spectacular show, but not something I want happening near me.

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