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Why Future SSDs Will Need Active Cooling

Like processors and graphics circuits, speeding up SSDs will include the addition of heat sinks, but also fans to ensure maximum performance.

The advent of M.2 NVMe SSDs has taken a huge leap in performance. Current fourth-generation models offer speeds of more than 7,000 MB / s, down from 600 MB / s for older SATA technology. The fifth generation of PCI Express SSD should be more than 10 GB/s.

But this increase in strength also results in an increase in temperature which can be fatal to the storage medium. This is explained by the manufacturer Phison, which specializes in SSD controllers.

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Sebastien Jane, technical director of Fashion, explains that the SSD must be kept at a temperature below 50 degrees Celsius in order to operate at its best. This is because, if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees, NAND flash memory does not support it and may cause data loss. This is why SSDs are equipped with protective features that reduce the speed (throttling) when the temperature is too high, or even stop the device if it reaches critical temperatures. Thus, a very fast 7000 MB / s model can see its performance drop to 500 MB / s if it gets too hot, score less than the old SATA SSDs!

Beware of overheating!

The problem is that each additional GB / s requires an increase in the required power of about 1 watt, which leads to an increase in temperature. That is why cooling has become so important.

In 2019, Western Digital launched its WD Black SN750 (3,500 MB / s) model, offering either the classic version or the heat-sink version. The same is true of the FireCuda 530, from Seagate, which goes up to 7,300 MB / s.

Other manufacturers choose a simple plate to ensure heat dissipation whenever possible. It is then important that the PC case has a very good circulation of air so that the charlever can be removed effectively.

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But, with future generations of SSDs (PCIe Gen5 and above), heat sinks may not be enough to prevent overheating. Sebastian Jane explains that it is possible to limit power requirements in two ways: either by reducing the number of NAND channels, or by using the fine-burning process.

Heat removal can also be done with the M.2 connector and the screw holding the SSD in place, provided the motherboard is cool enough. But that may not be enough, and the only solution after that would be to use large radiators and active cooling, ie with a fan.

If this solution is possible in office machines, it could pose a serious problem in laptops, especially in ultra-thin machines where manufacturers are already committed to doubling their inventions to cool the main processor. At a time when ARM machines manage to get rid of the fan for SOC that drives them, it’s fun to imagine the need for a fan for tomorrow’s storage. Even if we imagine that our ultra-portables of the future would not require such high-performance storage.

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