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Taking a page from conventional refrigeration techniques, NEC has developed a new cooling system the company claims uses 60 percent less energy than a water cooling loop, and up to 80 percent less than an air cooling system.
NEC's cooler is built around a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC) substitute. The refrigerant starts to boil at around 50C, at which point it changes into vapor and absorbs the heat coming from the CPU. Like a traditional water cooling loop, it then flows through a tube and is cooled by a fan in a radiator before turning back into a liquid and starting the process anew.
In addition to low greenhouse effects, NEC says the cooling fan doesn't have to work nearly as hard when compared to other cooling systems, and so it uses less energy. Not only that, but NEC claims the system is around 70 percent cheaper to produce than other cooling mechanisms.
So when can you get one and slap it into your system? Not anytime soon. NEC plans to first use the cooler internally, and then market the design to data centers in 2011. When or if this ever trickles down into the mainstream market remains to be seen.
(NEC hasn't yet published any product photos, only the above diagram taken from this PDF)