"Extreme" Video Card Cooling on an "Extreme" Budget

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What started as an OCF Benching Team forum goof, and then morphed into a MythBuster’s style mystery, turned into the following laugh filled, sub-zero experiment. The proper way, if there is such a thing, to take a GPU to sub-zero temps is with a purchased or custom built DICE/LN2 GPU pot. There are many fine examples of such pots readily available on the internet. The problem is that most of them can be a fairly expensive purchase for the average fellow who just dumped all his money into new hardware, or the average bencher who just killed half of his. So the quest emerges…

What is the cheapest way to get a video card into the sub-zero range?

Sure, you could wait until winter and move things out to the garage provided you live in a climate that has winter. Will it be colder? Sure. Will it be sub-zero? Probably not. Obviously LN2 is out of the question. It’s expensive, hard to contain, and downright dangerous if misused. So what are we left with? Dry ice, also known as DICE. It’s as cheap as $1.00 a pound, easily accessible, safe, and can potentially get you into the -70 °C range! Now we just have to figure out how to get the dry ice in contact with our GPU long enough to run some benchmarks.

Got a sandwich bag and some spare time?

Then you are all set for GPU DICE cooling on the cheap!

For this low budget experiment we will not be using the Nvidia GTX 480.  I think the Ati HD4550 is a better candidate.

For this low budget experiment we will not be using the Nvidia GTX 480. I think the ATI HD4550 is a better candidate.

The first step is to remove the heatsink and clean things up a little.

The first step is to remove the heatsink and clean things up a little.

After cleaning things up we cut a hole in the sandwich bag just a bit bigger than the GPU. Then we place the heatsink in the sandwich bag! Tasty!

After cleaning things up we cut a hole in the sandwich bag just a bit bigger than the GPU. Then we place the heatsink in the sandwich bag! Tasty!

Next we mount the heatsink back on the video card, bag and all. Just make sure the bag didn't slide in between the die and the heatsink. The tape is there merely to keep the baggy

Next we mount the heatsink back on the video card, bag and all. Just make sure the bag didn't slide in between the die and the heatsink.

Just for clarification, the heatsink is in the bag, the card is not.

Just for clarification, the heatsink is in the bag, the card is not.

There are better ways to insulate a card for sub-zero operation, not knowing how well this was going to work I merely covered it liberally with Vaseline. The card lived.

There are better ways to insulate a card for sub-zero operation, not knowing how well this was going to work I merely covered it liberally with Vaseline. The card lived.

X58A-UD7 prepped for a cold card. Vaseline isn't a bad idea here either.

X58A-UD7 prepped for a cold card. Vaseline isn't a bad idea here either.

Ati HD4550 installed, hopefully you can see how the baggy is intended to hold DICE now.

ATI HD4550 installed, hopefully you can see how the baggy is intended to hold DICE now.

Close up side view. The paper towel is there to catch and ice chunks that may form on the outside of the baggy as I have obviously not insulated it properly. We're on a budget people!

Close up side view. The paper towel is there to catch any ice chunks that may form on the outside of the baggy as I have obviously not insulated it properly. We're on a budget people!

Above view. As you can see I have left enough room in the baggy for a nice scoop of DICE.

Above view. As you can see I have left enough room in the baggy for a nice scoop of DICE.

Time to fire it up! Just dropped some DICE into the CPU pot. It is a Koolance V2 in case you were curious.

Time to fire it up! Just dropped some DICE into the CPU pot. It is a Koolance V2 in case you were curious.

Finally we have added some DICE to the "GPU pot." As with any DICE adventures, smaller chunks are always better.

Finally we have added some DICE to the "GPU pot." As with any DICE adventures, smaller chunks are always better.

Things are working slightly better than expected! The picture isn't that clear, but if you look closely you can see a frost patch growing on the backside of the die. Glad I put on the Vaseline now!

Things are working slightly better than expected! The picture isn't that clear, but if you look closely you can see a frost patch growing on the backside of the die. Glad I put on the Vaseline now!

Cooling things down.  Right now the GPU is at -28c, CPU at -69c.

Cooling things down. Right now the GPU is at -28 °C, CPU at -69 °C.

Top view. (I know that's not crushed DICE in the CPU pot, I'm lazy and the Koolance is a great pot.

Top view. (I know that's not crushed DICE in the CPU pot, I'm lazy and the Koolance is a great pot.

Benching Vantage! i7 920 at 4.725mhz, Ram at 1800mhz 7-8-7-24, 4550 at 780mhz on the core and 900mhz on the memory! Unfortunately it's still going 1-4 FPS.  The CPU tests actually moved faster.

Benching Vantage! i7 920 at 4.725 MHz, RAM at 1800 MHz 7-8-7-24, 4550 GPU at 780 MHz on the core and 900 MHz on the memory! Unfortunately it's still going 1-4 FPS. The CPU tests actually moved faster.

The aftermath. It's always best to shut down and remove things before they thaw out and start dripping all over. Frozen water isn't conductive, regular water...well you get the idea.

The aftermath. It's always best to shut down and remove things before they thaw out and start dripping all over. Frozen water isn't conductive, regular water...well you get the idea.

Now you can see the frosty spot better! Poor little 4550 had no idea what it was in for today.

Now you can see the frosty spot better! Poor little 4550 had no idea what it was in for today.

And that is the cheap way to take your video card sub-zero.

-30 °C for the price of a sandwich bag, some tape, and a scoop of DICE!

I’m betting that you are wondering where all the sweet scores are? Me too. This particular card honestly didn’t bench a great deal better at -30 °C verses 50 °C where it normally operates at, much to my dismay. As a matter of fact this might have been my best run: 1470 marks in Vantage. I’m really hoping the i7 at 4.7 GHz didn’t bottleneck it.

You might think that I have absolutely nothing to show for this foray into sub-zero cooling, but you would be wrong. What we have gained in sub-zero sandwich bag  DICE pot fabrication techniques far outweighs any elite scores or gold medals. Plus, this was a whole lot of fun! I hope you agree.

Disclaimer: No ATI 4550s were harmed in the making of this article. This was a bad idea, under no circumstances should any reasonable person ever attempt something this insanely foolish. If you need help or advice trying, feel free to post below.

– xoke

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    - - - Updated - - -

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    - - - Updated - - -

    - - - Updated - - -
    Found it - . will this work surely not -

    http://cgi.ebay.co.uk/PC-case-water-cooling-Phase-Change-Sub-Zero-/280645027541?pt=UK_Computing_DesktopComponents_RL&hash=item4157bf46d5

    from slovenia not Poland
    hi

    yes thought of running colling system with wood alcohol as this freezes @ -114c so DICE will still keep it liquid. Only concern was the effects of ethanol on the plumbing and potential corrosion?? Also have you seen the cases that are built around a fridge/freezer pump ?? Some bloke in Poland is knocking them out.
    Alcohol was used as a coolant with no radiator (bucket res, dry ice in the bucket, 99% iso coolant) a bit ago, guy guy -50ish degree temps with liquid cooling. Kinda sorta watercooling :D

    Then he bought a cpu pot so he could use dry ice directly.
    DICE is -70C (at sublimation), so holding a positive temp isn't possible. You can, however, run ~70% antifreeze and go subzero and then using a chilled water loop with dice will work.
    crazy but soooo funny

    whats about running a water cooled block with a DICE powered radiator system not going sub-zero so loing as the the system dosnt freeze should run at +2c ish
    Bobnova
    Where the normal cooler bolts through is. Plus zipties (or at least harbor freight zip ties) aren't hard to kill, especially the little ones that fit well through the bolt holes.

    Mainly, if the board starts bending STOP TIGHTENING.

    There're a couple dead 4890s on the benching team that taught us/reminded us about that.


    :rofl: ha ha nice...

    Your right about that... Habor freight zip ties aren't as strong as regular zip ties :D
    Bobnova
    Where the normal cooler bolts through is. Plus zipties (or at least harbor freight zip ties) aren't hard to kill, especially the little ones that fit well through the bolt holes.

    Mainly, if the board starts bending STOP TIGHTENING.

    There're a couple dead 4890s on the benching team that taught us/reminded us about that.


    Who was that tool! :chair:
    Where the normal cooler bolts through is. Plus zipties (or at least harbor freight zip ties) aren't hard to kill, especially the little ones that fit well through the bolt holes.

    Mainly, if the board starts bending STOP TIGHTENING.

    There're a couple dead 4890s on the benching team that taught us/reminded us about that.
    Bobnova
    You'd be hard pressed to kill a circuitboard with zip ties, most zip ties will break before you manage to kill the board assuming you'd using the normal cooler mounting holes.


    Oh really? Wow i didn't know the board was that strong...
    You'd be hard pressed to kill a circuitboard with zip ties, most zip ties will break before you manage to kill the board assuming you'd using the normal cooler mounting holes.
    hahaha that is sooo cool. I thought about doing this with a friend's left over Phenom 9950BE stock heatpipe cooler and a 9800GT, I just couldn't figure out how to mount it =(
    580 by paparamiro



    http://hwbot.org/community/submission/1076096_poparamiro_3dmark_vantage___performance_geforce_gtx_580_30893_marks

    mattno5ss's vx on an 8800gtx



    http://overclockers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=655477