Cooling fan design has not changed since the first conception of them. Noisy and wasteful are adjectives that describe the original design of the heatsink fan combo. Those whom have experienced cleaning a slightly aged cooler realize they quickly become clogged with dust. The theory here is to have a heatsink that doesn’t need a seperate fan and heatsink because the heatsink is the fan.
Jeff Koplow, has come up with a new idea where the heat from what you want cooled is transferred to a heatsink consisting of metal blades. Sandia National Laboratories dubbed its new invention the “Sandia Cooler.” It consists of a heatsink sitting on top of the component that needs cooling, hovering on a tiny cushion of air. Heat stirs the air in this gap which is the catalyst that causes the fan to spin.
According to Koplow, if the design is used the entire US electric usage could result in a 7% decrease.
Read the entire research paper here [PDF].