Quoted from:
Red Herring Inc. - IC Report - December 2003 - Vol.2, No. 1
Pages 9, 10

Chip-Cooling Systems
Moffett Field, California


The more powerful the microprocessor, the more heat it generates. And that is a problem. Heat bakes components and corrupts them over time. Worse, the fans that cool chips are not only loud, they fail often. Thus the search for a quieter, more reliable cooling technology.

  Nisvara, a startup backed by the Girvan Institute – a NASA fund set up to transfer technology into and out of the space agency – is using materials developed at NASA to beat the heat.

  Nisvara CTO and founder John Sokol’s solution is a material made of carbon nanotubes. It can withstand great heat and is one-sixth the weight and 100 times stronger then steel. Nisvara makes both active and passive cooling systems. The active system involves a liquid coolant; the passive system uses a heat sink (essentially a piece of metal with many blades) to soak up heat and vent is away.

   One area of particular appeal for Nisvara’s technology is the server market, where it could substantially reduce the cost of operating a data center or server farm. Fan failure is the number-one cause of server failure. What’s more, over half of the electricity used by data centers and server farms is for air conditioning.  No fans also means less vibration-caused tracking errors, which are a problem in the SAN/NAS hardware arena.

  But Nisvara’s immediate plans are in the PC market. The company hopes to make early revenue by selling a high-end silent PC aimed at programmers and other who value noise reduction. Another potential near-term market is in media production, where silence is highly valued.

  Nisvara has filed for a provisional patent on it’s technology, which is says is differentiated by its approach to cool the entire machine rather then the chip alone. It is now seeking the first $1 million of a $5 million series A round.

   Rob Chaplinsky, a general partner at Mohr, Davidow Ventures who has been monitoring new cooling technologies for the past two years, calls chip cooling ”an unexplored industry that’s in need of disruptive technology.” Chaplinsky is an investor in Cooligy, perhaps the best-known startup in the field. Other competitors include Active Cool, Cool Chips and Isothermal Systems Research. While Chaplinsky thinks there is still room for competition – he sizes the cooling market at $1 billion on the PC side alone – he points out that startups like Nisvara that are still in the research phase won’t have a working product for several years, while Cooligy is already testing a prototype with customers.