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Imagine That! - Mini-Winds of Change

Imagine That!
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Imagine That! - Mini-Winds of Change

Credit: NSF/Finger Lakes Productions International

Audio Transcript:

Tiny wind-producing devices could soon be in mini music players, cameras, and cell phones. Turns out these hot techno-toys need to chill out.

Imagine That!

Electronics can easily overheat, and sometimes burn up altogether. So as our MP-3 players and PDAs get smaller, scientists have developed tiny fans to cool the massive amount of energy held in the palm of your hand.

Garimella: "There will be a billion transistors on a chip fairly soon, and the kinds of heat fluxes -- which is the amount of heat generated per unit area -- would be rivaling the heat factor of the sun's surface."

That's Purdue University mechanical engineering professor Suresh Garimella, part of a team working on microscale ion-driven air flow: fans that use nano-structures on a chip to create ions in the air. Pumped by an electric field, the ions make cooling even the smallest device, well, a breeze.

The team is also powering mini fans using piezo ceramics. You've seen this material: it's used in kids' shoes. It makes that little red light blink as their busy feet move!

Garimella: "When you press it or crush it, it produces a voltage. We use the reverse concept, where we use a voltage to actually make it expand or contract,"

...causing a miniature fan to move back and forth. By taking the heat, tiny fans will let us pack big technology into the smallest of gadgets. How cool is that? I'm Eric Phillips.

"Imagine That!" covers projects funded by the U.S. government's National Science Foundation. Federally sponsored research -- brought to you by you! Learn more at

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