Posted by: theovalich | February 16, 2009

Sparkle moves beyond heat-pipes, introduces Diamond-Like Carbon

As cooling requirements on computing components increase, manufacturers are launching ingenious ways to cool down the components. After the rise of copper, heat-pipe and vapor chamber coolers, alternatives such as bubble-pump and liquid metal appeared. However, the latter didn’t enjoy the success (yet), so the race for next viable cooling technique is on.

The latest entrant to the alternative-cooling material market is Sparkle Computer Co. Ltd. Engineers at Sparkle experimented with various graphics cards and earlier today, the company officially debuted Diamond-like Carbon (DLC) radiator for graphics cards.  In order to apply DLC material to the already existing aluminum or copper heatsink, Sparkle used Plasma Enhanced CVD (PECVD) technique, but in order to make this technique more consumer-friendly, marketing came up with the term Diamonds Sputtering technology (DS).

This puny cooler showed great promise. We wonder what will happen once that DLC is applied to a large 2-slot cooler...

This puny cooler showed great promise. We wonder what will happen once that DLC is applied to a large 2-slot cooler...

Now, to clear any potential confusion, DLC is not a replacement material for aluminum, carbon or something similar. DLC is used as a coating on existing material, and it will enhance its thermal properties. Achieved results are quite interesting – according to Sparkle, their conventionally-cooled GeForce 9500GT heats up to 88C. After Diamond-like Carbon membrane was applied to the same radiator, temperatures dropped by five degrees Celsius, down to 83C. Now, to make things more interesting, heat is not the only issue that DLC effectively deals with. Apparently, this super-hard carbon coating also increases resistance to bending and scratches, making this material very desireable for copper fins, that just “love” to bend after just looking at them. ;)

It will be interesting to see future GeForce graphics cards coming from Sparkle, since now the company can use its Diamond Sputtering Tech on regular Nvidia-supplied coolers as well, manufacturing DLC-clad graphics cards from their launch onwards. If price premium is not an issue, this technology is one interesting newcomer to watch.

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  1. hmmm, look at the physics… how can a surface coating possibly improve the performance by 5 degrees? Thermally even a heavy coating of 1 to 2 microns would make an immeasurable difference in the perforamnce of the heat sink.

    I must say, from a marketing perspective it sounds really neat!

  2. They have their claims… I know what is the current use of various DLC materials, especially in fiber-optics. They made a bold claim, it is up to us, journalists to prove them right or wrong ;)

    As soon as I get the card(s), I should be able to find out myself.

  3. It does look as an interesting innovation, though as the omonymous George stated, physically speaking applying even a very thin (microns) coating of any given material to any other given material, will affect it’s thermal conductivity performance pointing more to the worst side of the scale.

    If the DLC, on the other side, is used in “mixture”, as alloy of the alluminum or copper of the heatsink, there could be an improvement in thermal conductivity, provided that the alloy is properly manufactured. I could see it fit on Aluminum plates of the heatsinks rather than as coating for the copper fins. IMHO.

  4. Agree! There is work being done on aluminum-graphite/carbon alloys that have potential to increase the aluminum’s thermal conductivity 2X but there are reliability concerns with the current materials.

  5. Well, we’ll see where the limits are. For now – I want to see the performance on the same product, with aluminum cooler and with this DLC-enhanced one.

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