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Passive Convection

With the small Black Ice radiators that fit in your case, fans are necessary. However, we're not building just any ordinary system; we're building a Monster-Mod. That means we have to go extreme. In this case, we want to ditch the fans altogether. That's right—we're going to cool our CPU without any fans. We want quiet cooling.

The key to ditching your noisy fans is to find a large enough radiator. If you have enough surface area, a large radiator placed outside your case will be adequate to exchange heat through passive convection. A commercial example is the Innovatek Konvekt-O-Matic passive radiator. It's large, at 4 pounds and 13½ inches long by 9 inches high. And it can be bolted to the outside of your case.

However, prices for passive radiators are $120–300 and up, depending on how fancy you want it to look. This is way out of our publisher's budget. With time running out and no money left for our project, things began to look desperate. Where do you turn when you're broke, under pressure, and out of luck?

You turn to your dad, of course.

I went to visit my father, who is a professor of electrical engineering at Southern Methodist University. He tends to collect all sorts of interesting equipment that could someday be useful. After telling him what I was after, he promptly pulled out a 30-year-old automobile radiator. This was the small air-conditioner radiator (see Figure 2) from our old Fiat Spyder convertible. It was a fun car to drive until it was put out to pasture.

Figure 2Figure 2 Make your friends jealous when you roll into the next LAN party with this Italian sports car radiator bolted to your case.

I washed off the cobwebs and hooked up the radiator to a garden hose. It worked perfectly, and was leak-free. Although it's quite large, with a massive radiating surface area, it's so finely constructed that it weighs less than smaller radiators. It is a full 18 by 11 inches, yet it weighs less than 2 pounds!

This car radiator is built to a much higher standard than anything you can buy cheap from a computer store. It has thousands of tiny double-row scalloped radiating fins. There is enough capacitance and radiating surface area to passively cool our water without any fan whatsoever. Thus, it's completely quiet except for the faint hum of flowing water.

As far as aesthetics, this gives an Avant Garde, yet "retro" look to the case. You're guaranteed to turn heads at a LAN party with this sports car radiator projecting out of your case. The system now looks like something you might see at a modern art museum.

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