Your Next Phone Might Be Fuelled by Liquid Metal, More Like Terminator

Illustration for article titled Your Next Phone Might Be Fuelled by Liquid Metal, More Like Terminator

This week rumours have circulated about HTC launching a blisteringly quick 2.5GHz quad-core phone. But that will soon seem paltry, when our mobile devices are fuelled by liquid metal.


IBM have been working out how to use liquid to simultaneously fuel and cool processors - and they've managed it. In their Zurich Research Laboratory, the team have taken their inspiration from the human brain.

"The human brain is 10,000 times more dense and efficient than any computer today. That's possible because it uses only one, extremely efficient, network of capillaries and blood vessels to transport heat and energy, all at the same time," IBM's Bruno Michel told New Scientist.


First, this bunch of IBM engineers stacked hundreds of silicon wafers on top of each other to create three-dimensional processors. Nothing particularly new there: after all, Intel's new Ivy Bridge processors, to be launched in 2012, do just that.

But IBM have created channels between the wafers which allow liquid metal - vanadium, to be precise - to run through the entire processor. Because the liquid is metallic, it can be used to carry charged particles that power the chip. As the vanadium loses its charge, it also absorbs heat, meaning the fluid acts as a coolant, too.

The knock-on effect? Far high efficiency, and far higher clock speeds in tiny devices. Which could leave the 2.5GHz HTC quaking in its boots. [New Scientist; Image: williamcho]

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What they're using is a fluid chock full of vanadium ions—it's a liquid with lots of metal in it, but it's not exactly liquid metal. The fluid they're using is the sort of vanadium electrolyte found in any other vanadium redox battery. It's very cool tech, and certainly being used in a pretty new and interesting way here, but please don't picture Terminator when you think of it. It looks more like iodine than it does the T-1000.

If they did make liquid vanadium-fueled processors, you really wouldn't want one in your cell phone: vanadium's melting point is somewhere north of 3000 degrees Fahrenheit. You think your phone gets a little too warm for your liking now....