Nextreme Inc., a maker of micro-scale thermal and power management products in Research Triangle, NC, has developed a novel way to cool chips while banking energy. The company runs the cooling process in reverse, converting the heat into power circuitry that trickle-charges batteries. The process arises from an esoteric ó yet basically simple ó change in the way chips are packaged.
Nextreme's innovation creates a thermally active copper pillar bump. When electrical current is passed through the bump one side cools rapidly relative to the other and the bump actually generates power. While the principles behind the process have been known for a long time, they've only been possible thanks to recent advances in nanotechnology.