Researchers are developing a way for large machines to “breathe” in and out cooling blasts of water to keep their systems from overheating. The process is much like how humans and some animals breath in air to cool their bodies down; however, in this case, the machines would be breathing in cool blasts of water.

The technique used a pulsed waterjet to cool a hot titanium surface; the more water pumped out of the spray jet nozzles, the greater the amount of heat transferred between the solid titanium surface and the water droplets, thus cooling the titanium. The water is emitted from small waterjet nozzles, about 10 times the thickness of a human hair, that douse a hot surface of a large electronic system. The water is collected in a storage chamber where it can be pumped out and circulated again to repeat the cooling process. The storage chamber held about 10 ounces of water. Using high-speed, infrared thermal imaging, the researchers were able to find the optimum amount of water for maximum cooling performance.

Applications for the system could include cooling large electronics, space vehicles, batteries in electric vehicles, and gas turbines. There are multiple ways to cool hot hardware but water-jet cooling is a preferred method because it can be adjusted to different directions, has good heat transfer ability, and uses minimum amounts of water or liquid coolant. Over- or under-watering, however, can result in floods or dry hotspots.

The method overcomes this problem by offering a system that is tunable to hardware needs so that the only water applied is the amount needed and in the right spot. Once device temperatures surpass a threshold value — for example, 194 °F — the device’s performance decreases. For this reason, better cooling technologies are required to keep device temperature well within the maximum temperature for optimum operation.

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