Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Cleaning Electronics

You know what I hate? When dust or dirt gets into my computers. It's such a pain in the ass to clean.
Electronics such as computers generates heat from electrical resistance, and state-transition, while operating. This heat must be removed, for the continuing health of the computer. Usually, this is done with a small fan, which blows cool air over the hot electronics. The air takes the heat with it as it blows away.
However, this air brings with it dust. Meteor debris, fibers from my clothing, bits of my discarded skin and hair, and small bits of debris combine to form dust, an annoying and quasi-sticky grey substance. It smells. It has excellent thermal insulation, and it loves to stick to electronics. The more dust it has, the harder it is to keep cool. Damn it. So, periodically, the dust has to be removed. From small tight places that cannot be washed, because water plus electronics equals extremely bad short circuit.
I've typically been using a damp (not wet, damp) cotton swab, and a damp paper towel on larger areas, to take out the dust, then leave it off for an extra hour just to be sure it's dry. Most computer professionals prefer compressed air, which makes short work of all the dust in the computer in one fell swoop. (Though it's really bad for the fans, which get accelerated to ludicrous speeds.)
The strangest available solution is to make a fishtank computer, which is sealed and cannot possibly get dirty. Wait, what? One takes a fish tank, those little fishtank rocks, the computer parts, and several gallons of mineral oil. Arrange the computer parts in the tank, with the hard drive outside. The hard drive must be in air, because it has a pressure equalization mechanism that gets ruined if exposed to mineral oil, breaking down the entire drive. Unless it's an SSD, then it's okay. Make sure all the wires are connected, and turn it on to prove that it works. Then add the mineral oil. Your computer now appears to operate "underwater." The mineral oil works because it's as clear as water, but unlike water, it is chemically nonpolar, so it will not interfere with the operation of the computer.
For best results, an electronics expert should build "port repeaters" on the lid, so you can plug everything into the lid, which plugs into the computer below. And lo, it runs, and it cannot attract dust, and it vents all heat into the mineral oil, which the fans swirl around, and use the glass as one big heat sink. Also, it muffles all sound produced by the computer, eliminating that annnoying fan whirr.
One downside is that if the electronics ever have to come out of the mineral oil...they're covered in mineral oil, and rather icky to the touch.
Readers: How would you clean electronics? Mind you, wet electronics will insantly short circuit if switched on, so water (and other polar chemicals) should be avoided at all costs.


The Chinese guy said...

Problem is oil itself needs to be cooled though, granted engines run markedly hotter, but CPUs at 60-80C are going to run pretty hot too, which means an oil cooler and you guessed it a fan on the oil cooler!

themadengineer said...

The oil cools quite a bit from all the glass and air it's touching, yeah, but you'd better not overclock your CPU, and it's ambient temperature when running nonstop tends to be about only 20, or even 10, degrees less than the CPU itself, and you'll also need fans inside the oil to keep it circulating, lest you get hot spots (which are so hot that the oil BOILS. Very bad for the CPU!)
There are three kinds of heat transfer. Conduction, in which something directly touches something else, convention, in which a flowing fluid takes the heat with it, and radiation. Your Oil-PC convects the heat around the tank, and conducts heat where it touches the glass and air. Not much radiation is happening here. A 20 gallon fish tank is able to keep a 90 watt CPU from overheating, provided it's kept in a cold room.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...