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Computer components may one day recycle their own wasted heat


Imagine a computer that isn't just designed to "deal" with the heat produced by its components, but one that actually uses that wasted energy to power some of its high-tech internals. That's the potential of a new discovery out of the Physical and Technical Institute (PTB) of Braunschweig, Germany. Researchers discovered what they're calling tunnel magneto thermoelectric voltage, essentially that by heating one side of a magnetic tunnel structure (the types of switches found in magnetic RAM and in the heads of hard drives) they can control the flow of electricity across its poles. The switches would still need to be triggered by matching the polarity on either side of the insulator and magnet sandwich, but heating one pole would create an electrical potential and would consume some of the energy that otherwise might get dispersed through a heatsink. We're still years away from seeing this technology in any functioning products and, honestly, we're not entirely sure we understand how exactly it would work, but it sounds like just the sort of potential-packing innovation that our (rather toasty) laps desperately need.

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