Our smartphones – or the high-tech SoCs inside them, in particular – are now more powerful than they have ever been. The 2GHz CPU milestone has already been surpassed, 8-core processors are now a reality, and GPUs are capable of driving games with console-quality graphics. But the further a smartphone chip is being pushed, the more heat it releases – heat that has to be dissipated one way or another. And while some new smartphones already make use of advanced cooling techniques involving liquids, a group of researchers from the University of Michigan is suggesting a somewhat different approach.
Their weapon of choice? Wax. Yup, the same stuff they make candles out of is also very good at absorbing heat quickly, as it turns out. Furthermore, a processor chip coated in the material may allow a technique called "computational sprinting" to be implemented. In plain words, that would allow the CPU to deliver a short burst of extra processing power when it is needed. The wax would take away the excessive heat as it melts, preventing the chip from overheating.
The downside to this concept, however, is that when the wax turns into liquid, it loses its heat absorption properties and needs to solidify again before another "sprint" can be performed. Nevertheless, the team believes their idea could potentially allow future chips to be driven faster for longer periods of time. If research shows that there truly is any benefit to cooling mobile processors with wax, then a commercial solution may become reality in the next 5 to 10 years.