The wind tunnel computer that hopes to conquer cancer

Mike Schropp, the self-titled Total Geek who brought us the monstrous-yet-beautiful three-motherboard PC made out of Lego, has gone one better and created a wind tunnel for his new PC.

The PC itself is a beast: An Intel Core i7-3770K clocked at 4.5GHz, with twin Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards. Like Schropp’s Lego workstation, the wind tunnel-cooled computer is used for grid computing — in specific, IBM’s World Community Grid, which uses a worldwide network of computers to create a virtual supercomputer that hopes to cure cancer, AIDS, and find solutions to other areas of medical and scientific research. Where the Lego workstation was oriented towards raw CPU grunt, the IBM World Community Grid software has now been updated to support GPUs — and as you know, for computing tasks that have been specially tailored for massive parallelism, modern GPUs blow CPUs away.

Wind tunnel computer, close up on the CPU and GPUs

But enough about the specs: What we really care about is that Schropp built a damn wind tunnel to cool his PC.

The basic concept behind a wind tunnel is that you have a large fan at one end, a narrow contraction section in the middle, and then an exhaust after that. The idea is that the large fan creates a sizable breeze (around 2000CFM, with wind speeds of around 14-15 mph), but by passing through the contraction section in the middle the wind speed increases to 26-30 mph. The narrow section is, of course, the perfect place to put a hot computer that’s in desperate need of air cooling.

Wind tunnel PC case concept drawings

Building the wind tunnel seems like it was fairly easy: Schropp built the basic shape out of MDF edged with aluminium, with a couple of pieces of polycarbonate forming the see-through window around the PC itself. Schropp then painted the whole thing, added some awesome buttons to the front of the case, put a standard box fan at the entrance to the tunnel (recessed a little, to reduce its noise output), and finally mounted his PC in the middle.

Wind tunnel case mod, under construction

The end result, as you can see, is quite possibly the coolest case mod ever — and, almost as an added bonus, it’s also quite effective as a cooling solution. In testing, Total Geek managed to overclock the CPU to 4.5GHz @ 1.22V, reaching a temperature of 63-65C. With so much extra leeway, he thinks he can hit 4.8GHz — not bad, for an air-cooled not-delidded i7-3770K. GPU-wise, he achieves an overclock from 1000MHz to 1225MHz, with a temperature around 45-50C. Again, Schropp thinks he has the headroom for even higher overclocks (1.3GHz+), but hasn’t yet tried it. While he sadly doesn’t provide any photos, Schropp points out that he actually used smoke to analyze the flow patterns and turbulence around the CPU and GPUs, too.

Wind tunnel computer, alternate angle

All told, the wind tunnel PC is currently processing around 8,000 workunits per day, which is about 20 times what a normal IBM World Community Grid member would complete (i.e. Schropp does about 20 days of processing every day). In just over a month, Schropp has donated 750 days of cancer research, or a total of 147,000+ Help Conquer Cancer results. Pretty cool: An awesome-looking computer that’s also helping to save the world.

Be sure to hit up Total Geekdom for the full write-up, and more info about the World Community Grid, which Schropp feels so strongly about.

Now read: The three-motherboard cancer research workstation made out of Lego

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1 Comment

Sebastian Anthony on January 4, 2013 at 1:52 am.

Mike Schropp, the self-titled Total Geek who brought us the monstrous-yet-beautiful three-motherboard PC made out of Lego, has gone one better and created a wind tunnel for his new PC.

The PC itself is a beast: An Intel Core i7-3770K clocked at 4.5GHz, with twin Radeon HD 7970 graphics cards. Like Schropp’s Lego workstation, the wind tunnel-cooled computer is used for grid computing — in specific, IBM’s World Community Grid, which uses a worldwide network of computers to create a virtual supercomputer that hopes to cure cancer, AIDS, and find solutions to other areas of medical and scientific research. Where the Lego workstation was oriented towards raw CPU grunt, the IBM World Community Grid software has now been updated to support GPUs — and as you know, for computing tasks that have been specially tailored for massive parallelism, modern GPUs blow CPUs away.

Wind tunnel computer, close up on the CPU and GPUs

But enough about the specs: What we really care about is that Schropp built a damn wind tunnel to cool his PC.

The basic concept behind a wind tunnel is that you have a large fan at one end, a narrow contraction section in the middle, and then an exhaust after that. The idea is that the large fan creates a sizable breeze (around 2000CFM, with wind speeds of around 14-15 mph), but by passing through the contraction section in the middle the wind speed increases to 26-30 mph. The narrow section is, of course, the perfect place to put a hot computer that’s in desperate need of air cooling.

Wind tunnel PC case concept drawings

Building the wind tunnel seems like it was fairly easy: Schropp built the basic shape out of MDF edged with aluminium, with a couple of pieces of polycarbonate forming the see-through window around the PC itself. Schropp then painted the whole thing, added some awesome buttons to the front of the case, put a standard box fan at the entrance to the tunnel (recessed a little, to reduce its noise output), and finally mounted his PC in the middle.

Wind tunnel case mod, under construction

The end result, as you can see, is quite possibly the coolest case mod ever — and, almost as an added bonus, it’s also quite effective as a cooling solution. In testing, Total Geek managed to overclock the CPU to 4.5GHz @ 1.22V, reaching a temperature of 63-65C. With so much extra leeway, he thinks he can hit 4.8GHz — not bad, for an air-cooled not-delidded i7-3770K. GPU-wise, he achieves an overclock from 1000MHz to 1225MHz, with a temperature around 45-50C. Again, Schropp thinks he has the headroom for even higher overclocks (1.3GHz+), but hasn’t yet tried it. While he sadly doesn’t provide any photos, Schropp points out that he actually used smoke to analyze the flow patterns and turbulence around the CPU and GPUs, too.

Wind tunnel computer, alternate angle

All told, the wind tunnel PC is currently processing around 8,000 workunits per day, which is about 20 times what a normal IBM World Community Grid member would complete (i.e. Schropp does about 20 days of processing every day). In just over a month, Schropp has donated 750 days of cancer research, or a total of 147,000+ Help Conquer Cancer results. Pretty cool: An awesome-looking computer that’s also helping to save the world.

Be sure to hit up Total Geekdom for the full write-up, and more info about the World Community Grid, which Schropp feels so strongly about.

Now read: The three-motherboard cancer research workstation made out of Lego

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