If you’re looking at your high-performing PC and asking yourself, “how does a liquid CPU cooler work?”, then you’ve come to the right page! In this article, we will flesh out the science behind the workings and intricacies of a liquid CPU cooler.
Parts of a Standard Liquid CPU Cooler
Before getting into the answer to the question “how does a liquid CPU cooler work?”, you need to understand the various components included in a conventional liquid CPU cooler.
- Radiator: This is responsible for transferring the heat from the CPU to the ambient air.
- Fan: This causes air to flow over the radiator.
- Pump: The liquid coolant moves through the assembly using this device.
- Reservoir: This compartment houses the liquid coolant.
- Hoses: These serve as conduits for the coolant.
Note that there are a lot of liquid CPU cooler products in the market, some of which we have written about in this product review page. Naturally, some liquid CPU coolers come with unique components that other similar products may not have. Make sure to read the product manual to know the use of these parts and accessories.
Discover the Science: How Does a Liquid CPU Cooler Work?
Now that we know the basic parts that comprise a liquid CPU cooler, let’s look into the operation of this ultra-useful device.
For starters, the liquid CPU cooler works pretty similarly to a vehicle engine cooling system. The first thing you need to know is that your computer’s CPU naturally produces heat, largely from its natural processing power and with the use of electricity.
If left unchecked, the heat may build up inside the CPU and cause the internal components to degrade easier. Moreover, most CPUs have a fail-safe function where it stops operating in case of high temperature.
So how does a liquid CPU cooler work? It basically drives out the heat generated by the CPU towards the ambient air outside. Here’s a basic flow of the cooling process:
1. The CPU heatsink collects the heat inside the CPU.
As mentioned earlier, the standard processing mechanism of a CPU generates heat. This is where the heatsink comes into play: it collects the heat so that the CPU remains at a tolerable temperature. Unfortunately, the heatsink will eventually increase in temperature if left by itself.
2. The liquid coolant absorbs the heat from the sink.
Enter the liquid coolant! With the pump directing the flow, the coolant takes in the heat from the sink (or plate, in some variants) and is pumped through a tube and into the radiator.
3. The fan directs ambient air toward the radiator.
This is an important step because air will carry the heat out of the system. With the fan in place, the cool air is forced to enter the CPU and onto the radiator.
4. The radiator transfers the heat from the liquid coolant to the incoming air.
This is where the magic happens: the radiator is designed to transfer the heat absorbed by the liquid coolant onto the air coming from the fan. This heat exchange happens in a matter of seconds.
5. The hot air is taken out of the CPU interior.
Once the air has taken in the heat from the coolant, another fan directs it out of the system. This effectively reduces the temperature of the liquid coolant.
6. The cooled liquid returns to the sink.
The entire process comes full circle when the liquid coolant travels from the radiator back to the heat sink via a return tube.
Some liquid CPU coolers make use of water, while others perform best using a liquid coolant. This specially formulated fluid – which actually contains water along with other chemicals – has a higher boiling point. As a result, the liquid does not boil even if it absorbs a lot of heat from the CPU.
Why is this helpful? Keeping the coolant in liquid form – and not in a vaporized form through boiling – will prevent mineral deposits from building up in the cooling system. This deposit buildup may cause a reduced transport speed of coolant from heat sink to radiator, and may also decrease the cooling efficiency of the entire system.
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