What Happens When You Water Cool an Air Cooler?

AlphaAtlas

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What happens when you try to water cool an air cooling tower? One YouTuber decided decided to find out, as he sealed the upper part of a Hyper 212 EVO inside a closed ice loop. The setup managed to keep and overclocked 2500k at a stable 44C under load, but just how practical such a setup would be long-term remains to be seen.

Check out the experiment here.


Ever since I can remember, when it comes to CPU cooling there are two main options, water cooling or air cooling. That got me thinking, why cant you do both. I took my Hyper 212 EVO and set out to water cool it, I thought it would be cool But I had not idea it would work this well.
 

Oldmodder

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I think you will have to run cooler than that, and it was just a proof of concept, exchange the ice bucket for a radiator and you should have no condensation issues.
Unless you hit a really unfortunate set of circumstances where relative air moisture and temperatures will of course make a dew-point form

I am wondering what if you NIXED the ALU fins and just rushed water over the heat-pipes at a higher flow-rate.

Cuz with the fins like that flow rate across the surfaces got to have been minimal and i assume far from even across the stack.
 

nightanole

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He did nothing to mitigate the inevitable condensation that will form on those heat pipes. It's on of the main reasons chill systems are such a pain in the butt.

Ah yes i remember when some of the early chill systems got shipped with open cell foam by mistake. Hilarity ensues.
 

SamuelL421

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He did nothing to mitigate the inevitable condensation that will form on those heat pipes. It's on of the main reasons chill systems are such a pain in the butt.

He will have to drop the ice water idea.

I wonder about the weight of the cooler on the board once it is filled. It's probably OK mounted horizontally like that but water is going to eventually get past the silicone between the plastic and heat pipes.
 

DooLocsta

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This was an interesting video, not that I would put something like that in my case but a good watch.
 

Oldmodder

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I almost jumped into vapor cooling, but then i just settled for water cooling, i cant really be bothered with compressors and temperatures getting up to speed, and extreme OC i find silly.
Actually until recently i have found the boot time of a computer annoying, but faster storage on the motherboard have finally solved that problem, my computer now boot faster than my network is at connecting so the first 2-3 seconds of the computer being on i have no internet.
 
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DejaWiz

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Pretty cool concept - and the temperature results are better than what I thought they'd be.

Love most of Major Hardware vids...he does some really creative things...and some very simple things to address aesthetics, like using nail polish on GPU fans.




 

cyclone3d

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First though was... Wow! Dude did nothing to actually ensure that the water moved across the fins.

I guess you have to start somewhere though, right?
 

seanreisk

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First though was... Wow! Dude did nothing to actually ensure that the water moved across the fins.

I was thinking somewhat the same thing, but I'm not sure he has to move too much water across the fins. Water is a crappy insulator, it will exchange heat. Air is a great insulator, and that's why you have so many fins on an air cooler - you need as much surface area as possible to get the heat from the metal to the air, and then fans to poof that warm air away.

But the block is trapping his water flow. If you could model how the water is moving I'm betting you'd see him exchanging less than 40% of the water in the tank. It still works, but I was thinking his set up needs an inflow at the bottom and an outflow at the top to allow more water to exchange.


P.S. Because science. And engineering.
 

Dayaks

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I was thinking somewhat the same thing, but I'm not sure he has to move too much water across the fins. Water is a crappy insulator, it will exchange heat. Air is a great insulator, and that's why you have so many fins on an air cooler - you need as much surface area as possible to get the heat from the metal to the air, and then fans to poof that warm air away.

But the block is trapping his water flow. If you could model how the water is moving I'm betting you'd see him exchanging less than 40% of the water in the tank. It still works, but I was thinking his set up needs an inflow at the bottom and an outflow at the top to allow more water to exchange.


P.S. Because science. And engineering.

You mean water has a high specific heat and air a low specific heat. Less to do with “insulator” more to do with heat capacity.
 

seanreisk

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You mean water has a high specific heat and air a low specific heat. Less to do with “insulator” more to do with heat capacity.

Because SCIENCE! (y)

But yeah, you're right. When you say that air has a low heat capacity, though, people's eyes glaze over, and you can tell they don't know what you mean. But they understand insulation.
 
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RogueTadhg

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Pretty cool concept - and the temperature results are better than what I thought they'd be.

Love most of Major Hardware vids...he does some really creative things...and some very simple things to address aesthetics, like using nail polish on GPU fans.







He might like the idea of painting his circuit board with UV paint. I seen it like 2 decades ago. It was the coolest thing I've seen done to a computer.
 

DejaWiz

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He might like the idea of painting his circuit board with UV paint. I seen it like 2 decades ago. It was the coolest thing I've seen done to a computer.

I remember the UV craze of the late 90s quite well! Seemed like all my PC enthusiast buddies were buying UV spray paint from all those now-defunct companies.
 
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Because SCIENCE! (y)

But yeah, you're right. When you say that air has a low heat capacity, though, people's eyes glaze over, and you can tell they don't know what you mean. But they understand insulation.
Heat capacity and insulation are two different things. In the case of air, it has low heat capacity and is a poor conductor of heat (good insulator). I studied ceramic engineering for 2 years so I know at least a little on the subject.

Personally I use a huge air cooler as it does a good enough job and produces less noise than a water cooling setup, at like 30-50% the cost.
 

Spidey329

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He will have to drop the ice water idea.

I wonder about the weight of the cooler on the board once it is filled. It's probably OK mounted horizontally like that but water is going to eventually get past the silicone between the plastic and heat pipes.

Yeah, the bottom plate could have been done a tad better (but, it is a first gen prototype for his idea). I think you can slide those aluminum fins off, so he could have increased the surface area dramatically by just drilling holes to size of the heatpipes and reassemblying. Should have also created dividers to force the water across the most surface area before returning. It'll take the path of least resistance otherwise (straight across, or around the sides).

Also needs to be careful on the liquid he uses (corrosion inhibiting).


Years ago I "liquid cooled" a 100w LED light. I took a dead halogen outdoor work light case (the metal+class sealed ones). Fixed an LED to an old Athlon heatsink+fan, and mounted the buck converter, placed it into the casing, and filled with mineral oil (Johnson's babyoil, since it was cheaper and a sealed system = no smell). Still works to this day. The hardest thing will always be keeping the liquid in around odd areas.
 
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DNMock

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Personally I use a huge air cooler as it does a good enough job and produces less noise than a water cooling setup, at like 30-50% the cost.
e02e5ffb5f980cd8262cf7f0ae00a4a9_press-x-to-doubt-memes-memesuper-la-noire-doubt-meme_419-238.jpg
 

seanreisk

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Heat capacity and insulation are two different things. In the case of air, it has low heat capacity and is a poor conductor of heat (good insulator). I studied ceramic engineering for 2 years so I know at least a little on the subject.

I took two semesters of Physics 201 because I had a girlfriend. After I passed the second semester I wiped my ass with the final, sealed my physics book in a gun safe, and went on to almost complete a computer science minor while making fart noises in the back of the computer lab.

BUT ... Because SCIENCE, DAMMIT!


P.S. Victory of science over the forces of EVIL! It doesn't matter what I know, all that matters is that I am on TEAM SCIENCW@%$!
 

cyclone3d

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I was thinking somewhat the same thing, but I'm not sure he has to move too much water across the fins. Water is a crappy insulator, it will exchange heat. Air is a great insulator, and that's why you have so many fins on an air cooler - you need as much surface area as possible to get the heat from the metal to the air, and then fans to poof that warm air away.

But the block is trapping his water flow. If you could model how the water is moving I'm betting you'd see him exchanging less than 40% of the water in the tank. It still works, but I was thinking his set up needs an inflow at the bottom and an outflow at the top to allow more water to exchange.


P.S. Because science. And engineering.


Actually forcing the cooler water across the fins will help it cool better than just some water swirling around in the reservoir with maybe just a bit of water movement through the fins.

This setup is akin to the cooler fins representing somebody peeing in a pool and then other people swimming through the area and knowing what happened because they encounter a warm pocket of water.

Get some movement of cool water through those fins and it will move that heat away a lot better.. akin to somebody peeing in a river.... nobody would ever know because the pocket of warmth would dissipate really quickly.


If current water blocks were designed like this enclosure, people would be having major issues with them as they would be about 10% as effective, if that much, compared to having the cool water forced through the water channels in the blocks.
 

Spidey329

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That all depends on what is "good enough" in his opinion .. barely overclocking with a large air cooler can allow you to use quieter fans.

My watercooled setup is a tad loud because I have only 120mm of radiator and a Delta fan (speed controlled). So in my setup, his would be a lot quieter, but mine would have more headroom at the cost of your ears.

The delta/water-cooler is a hold over from my i7 920 which I rocked for 5 years because I could overclock it so good (up to 3.7ish stable, if I recall). Haven't needed to overclock the i7-6700.
 

seanreisk

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Actually forcing the cooler water across the fins will help it cool better than just some water swirling around in the reservoir with maybe just a bit of water movement through the fins.

Now I'm feeling gun-shy, 'cause I'm reaching that point where I might prove to everyone that I don't know dick about what I thought I knew a little bit about ... But hey, I have no pride.

I think the point I was making is that it would be more important to get all of the water exchanging in his tank because water is pretty good at tranfering heat. But the mega-fin setup of an air cooling heat sink is acting like a large block that prevents circulation. Air cooled heat sinks transfer heat from copper tubes to a mass of aluminum fins in order to get more surface area for heat to transfer to air. Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm sure you will, and I probably am), but he would probably be better off removing all of the aluminum fins, leaving just the copper tubes standing up in his tank of water, allowing the copper tubes to transfer the heat directly to the water.


P.S. Remember, I represent SCIENCE! And you don't, 'cause I do, and you are Mr. Poopy-Pants!
 

Nenu

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Now I'm feeling gun-shy, 'cause I'm reaching that point where I might prove to everyone that I don't know dick about what I thought I knew a little bit about ... But hey, I have no pride.

I think the point I was making is that it would be more important to get all of the water exchanging in his tank because water is pretty good at tranfering heat. But the mega-fin setup of an air cooling heat sink is acting like a large block that prevents circulation. Air cooled heat sinks transfer heat from copper tubes to a mass of aluminum fins in order to get more surface area for heat to transfer to air. Correct me if I'm wrong (I'm sure you will, and I probably am), but he would probably be better off removing all of the aluminum fins, leaving just the copper tubes standing up in his tank of water, allowing the copper tubes to transfer the heat directly to the water.


P.S. Remember, I represent SCIENCE! And you don't, 'cause I do, and you are Mr. Poopy-Pants!
Cooling surface area is very important, to a point.
For water cooling it would probably perform better with 1/2 or 1/4 of the fins so the fin gaps are larger and a good pump making water flow between the fins.
The copper tubes have a tiny surface area and will be almost useless by themselves.

It might be an idea to make water flow in one direction on the bottom 1/4 of the fins then flow back on the next 1/4 etc.
This way the same water is forced over a huge surface area before it exits.
 

DNMock

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I spent the extra coin to get a Noctua D15 because it is quieter. It's my third Noctua, they never break, and after a while you learn to love the brown and beige.

That's cool, those were a little pricy for me and ended up just saying to heck with it and going custom loop. Definitely heard good things about noctua air cooling fans.


That all depends on what is "good enough" in his opinion .. barely overclocking with a large air cooler can allow you to use quieter fans.

My watercooled setup is a tad loud because I have only 120mm of radiator and a Delta fan (speed controlled). So in my setup, his would be a lot quieter, but mine would have more headroom at the cost of your ears.

The delta/water-cooler is a hold over from my i7 920 which I rocked for 5 years because I could overclock it so good (up to 3.7ish stable, if I recall). Haven't needed to overclock the i7-6700.


I was just talkin about the noise, but your point of only space for a smaller rad does make sense. If you are limited to 1 or 2 fans anyway, 1 or 2 fans should be quieter than 1 or 2 fans and a pump.
 

velusip

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Neat little project, but you still need to dissipate heat. Ideally, to the air so you can blow it away... Adding a water step kinda adds complication and length to the process.
 

Ebernanut

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What would be interesting if you could do this with mineral oil and candle wax and make it into a lava lamp.

I've never seen anyone use wax but the fish tank mineral oil setups were a thing for a short time and I seem to recall some people putting colored floaties of some sort in the oil so you could see the fans circulate it.
 

Brian_B

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I like the acrylic block/tank he made, having that with no leaks is impressive around all those heat pipes.

That being said - yeah... dissimilar metals under water on that block alone (copper pipes/aluminum fins), the massive area, all the penetrations from the heat pipes in the tank... a lot of potential failure modes for long term consideration.

Before you get into size/weight (all that water in that thing is going to weigh a good bit).

Neat story. But that's all it is, this has absolutely nothing on a "real" water block.
 

lcpiper

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Air cooling/Water cooling, why not do both??

I guess he missed the part about how watercooling setups have air-cooled radiators...


Some do, some do not.

Have air-cooled radiators that is.

I always liked the bong approach, the humidity in Arizona is a plus, and the water tinkling sound is soothing after a few hours of righteous fragging (y)
 

Derfnofred

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Pity he didn't feed the cold water from the bottom and exhaust out the top(which would be the sides when installed in a tower), probably can get relatively decent pumping purely off buoyancy forces. That is, above 4 °C, water's density decreases with temperature, so it will naturally flow upwards. If your CPU demands are bursty, you might even get away without pumping (water has a huge volumetric heat capacity). Having a huge radiating surface of an air cooler and the heat pipes to move the heat off chip is pretty great thermally, but obviously not the nicest packaging setup, as noted by some others.

(I make microfluidic reactors and move fluids around by carefully heating them)
 

Burticus

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I mean.... sure ok he put some effort into it, and who cares if he destroys a $20 heatsink. But yeah, no. More water pressure, less air fins. Maybe with a ton of dremel work....

Also... the heatpipes. They are designed to move heat up and out, but in fluid that's not going to work. So basically this would likely as well as a big solid chunk of metal without fins or heat pipes.
 

schmide

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Should last about a month before the aluminum fins oxidize into the copper making a white and green goo.

Noble experiment in galvanic corrosion for sure.
 
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I don't get what this is proving? He put ice in the jug to artificially lower temps. There is nothing proven there. Good for the guy for trying something but he keeps saying proof of concept. He didnt show the air cooler could cool effectively using water.
 

Oldmodder

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No this is just playing around, will be funny to see what happen when he get a radiator and a proper pump, and then see what kind of temperatures he get on the CPU in relation to the ambient temperature.
But with a regular setup + this kind of cooling head i have a sneaky feeling he will see load temperatures that just climb and climb if he don't somehow make flow better over all fins, cuz IMO as it is now it is also to some degree a passive setup with little flow over the fins.
Actually i would like to see something added to the water to see how it flow around the heat pipe cooler, at the top of it there cant be much circulation.

My 12 core threadripper running 4 ghz touch on 70 degree C under load, but i also only have a dual 120 mm radiator, so i do hear fans when it is running up there, its idling at 33 deg C with a 20 deg C ambient room temperature.
I want to move to a quad 120 radiator and slower MAX fan speed, to get around the same thermal performance or preferably a bit lower load temperatures.

The experiment are interesting is as far as are a heat pipe cooler better at moving heat from the CPU contact surface than a conventional water cooling herd are, if it is, then i assume you could combine the 2 for a better performing system.
Heat pipe to rip heat off cpu and transfer it to a larger surface where water will take it to the radiator to be dissipated into air.
Just hoping it can be done with a much smaller fin stack than a full blown heat pipe cooler.

PS. The massive block of copper that is my heatkiller cooling head, it probably weigh more than this setup, for sure not something you want to drop from a few feet and onto your foot.
 
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