Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Sparkle Says DLC Heatsinks Help Overclocking

by Aaron Heibert, Tuan Nguyen

Sparkle Computer Co. this week announced a technology for cooling its video cards called Diamond-like-Carbon (DLC) coating. Stated as a new process to help dissipate heat from heatsinks, Sparkle sets sights on overclockers.


The new coating uses what Sparkle refers to as diamonds sputtering technology, and Sparkle claims that the DLC coating increases the rate at which heat is transferred from the source and dissipated away through the heatsink fins. Sparkle is claiming that its DLC coating can lower temperatures by up to 5 degrees Celsius.

Giving a nod to the molecular structure of carbon, Sparkle says that heatsinks coated with DLC will be able to draw away heat from GPU cores significantly faster than direct copper contacts. A DLC coated heatsink also allows fins to transfer heat from metal to air--essentially, the entire heatsink is coated with DLC.

Sparkle also mentions that its DLC coating is able to achieve high thermal transfer rates by acting as a barrier between metal to air contact. Because it's chemically inert, DLC helps prevent corrosion due to oxidation, which reduces thermal conductance. While we think that a DLC coating can help to protect copper-based heatsinks, aluminum heatsinks aren't susceptible to rust and most heatsinks are machined from aluminum.

Typically, DLC has several properties, including:

  • Low friction
  • Hard but flexible/Wear resistant
  • Chemically inert
  • Atomically dense
  • Bio-compatible and anti-thrombogenic

DLC is often used to coat bearings and engine parts to prevent heat build-up. However, heat build-up is avoided by reducing the friction between the bearing and the housing, and preventing heat from transferring into the bearing. Judging from Sparkle's measurements, it's unclear whether temperature readings were performed on the heatsink or on the GPU die. The supplied chart is also visually skewed, as the graph supplied by Sparkle shows a 50-percent reduction but really only measuring a decrease of roughly 5-percent in temperature from 88C to 83C.

Since DLC prevents heat from entering an object, we're curious to find out from Sparkle if its prototype DLC heatsink actually prevented heat from transferring from the GPU to the heatsink, therefore producing a cooler heatsink. We contacted Sparkle to inquire but have yet to receive a response.

Sparkle has yet to mention which products will use DLC coatings and when consumers can expect to see them on store shelves. We'll follow up with Sparkle on this one.

Quoting from the Sparkle press release:

Now with more and more advanced relative technologies, the performance of video cards is getting stronger and stronger, there will be more heat generated by video cards, which significantly impairs the life expectancy of GPU and video memory chips on video cards. Video card companies have a lot of programs come and go to solve the problem of heat dissipation. The most commonly seen in general is the use of fans with cooling fins to do additional cooling. in the early days, the cooling job can be done simply with a fan or cooling fins, but in today's graphics cards with more intense heat than before, the cooling job must be done on the technologies not the same as before, not just rely on the fan and cooling fins. Video card companies must go to find some relatively new method to solve the problem of heat dissipation.

With a strong R&D team, SPARKLE introduced Diamonds Sputtering technology, which plate a Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) membrane on the surface of video cards cooling fins to realize the cooling effects of DLC. Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) membrane can help to quickly transfer the heat from GPU and video memory chips to the cooling fins. SPARKLE R&D team found in the study that Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) which gradually been found in the past few years has many high-natures, such as high optical penetrating, high-chemical corrosion-resistant, excellent friction properties and good compatibility. In addition, Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) also has a high heat conduction. General heatsink is relies on the electronics movement within the metal (such as copper) to do heat conduction. The diamonds do heat dissipation four times faster than copper, it relies on the phonons which is produced by the crystal lattice vibration, to bring heat to lower temperature places. Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) can achieve both functions at the same time, that is, transferring heat to lower temperature places with both graphite metal bond and diamond insulation bond (the covalent bond) . Apart from this, Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) can transfer carbon surface heat (atomic vibrations) into the infrared radiation of electromagnetic waves in bold (Black Body Radiation) , directly to the air molecules.

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