An ion pump is a device that can cool, clean and filter air without the use of conventional fans or other moving parts. The system works by producing a high voltage that strips some of the electrons from atoms of the air, generating positively charged ions. Because positively charged ions are attracted to negatively charged electrodes, the process results in continuous air movement.
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Ion pumps have several advantages over mechanical fans, including:
- Low acoustical noise production.
- The ability to remove harmful particles and allergens from the air.
- High air volume delivered per watt of power consumed.
- Scalability from microscopic to industrial size.
- No moving parts to wear out or require maintenance.
In computer systems, ion pumps may be adaptable for cooling electronic components, particularly microprocessor chips, which generate large amounts of heat for their physical size. According to some engineers, ion pump technology is an excellent alternative to other cooling methods. As processing power continues to increase, the amount of heat generated per unit volume in computer systems also increases, creating challenges for the hardware engineer. Forced-air cooling can be cumbersome and noisy, as well as limited in the extent to which it can cool small volumes of air. In some large servers and mainframes, water cooling is used but this approach is not considered practical for widespread use in personal computers.