I’m once again going to pine after the fact that we haven’t gotten the official console teardown for the PS5 that Mark Cerny promised earlier this year, but a recently published patent suggests the PS5 may use liquid metal as part of its “lavish” cooling system for the next-gen console. At a high level, the purpose of the patent “relates to a technique for improving cooling performance of a semiconductor device,” and further details reveal that cooling solution to be liquid metal.
Now, the first thing to understand is that this doesn’t mean the PS5 is going to have liquid metal pumping through it like a water-cooled PC or your car’s engine filled with coolant. The liquid metal acts as a heatsink in a predetermined area between the semiconductor chip and the radiator. I replaces the traditionally used grease that is usually used in electronic components. “Instead of grease, a metal that is liquefied by heat during operation of the semiconductor chip is used as a heat conductive material between the semiconductor chip and the radiator. If such a metal is used, the thermal resistance between the semiconductor chip and the radiator is lowered, and the cooling performance of the semiconductor chip can be improved.”
The patent goes on to describe the seals that would contain the liquefied metal, using an “ultraviolet cured resin” to ensure it doesn’t leak into the rest of the components when heated. The patent was first discovered by Twitter user @69iice, and can be viewed in full on the WIPO website. Some replies have expressed concern over the manufacture and shipping of an electronic device with liquid metal inside, but it’s important to note that the state of matter change is central to this cooling solution. The metal is liquefied by the heat of the operation of the device itself, which then becomes the heatsink between the semiconductor and the radiator (which dissipates that heat). It’s a more efficient method of pulling the heat away from the semiconductor during operation.
The PS5 will still have fans and airflow to help with the cooling process—something obviously shown through its unique curved tower design. The liquid metal heatsink is simply part of the overall cooling solution, playing a critical role in redirecting the heat to the radiator where it can be cooled by that airflow through the system. The proper console teardown will probably give us a better idea of how these pieces all work together, but Sony has said that a lot of work went into making the fan noise on the PS5 quieter. More efficient airflow through specific design and better dissipation of heat from the semiconductor via liquefied metal could play a huge part in that.
It’s important to remember that patents don’t mean this is definitely what Sony is using for the PS5, but the timing of publication is curious. It was originally filed back in February of this year. Perhaps that full teardown is just around the corner now that the patent is public. After all, there are only about three months left for Sony to showcase it before players get their hands on the console for themselves.
Xbox boss Phil Spencer commented on the PS5’s design and said he liked the solution they came up with for cooling, however it’s unlikely he has specific details about the overall cooling system. His comments simply reflect the physical design of the console with regards to airflow, not how the internal components work to keep it cool or the use of liquefied metal as a heatsink between the semiconductor and the radiator.