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Oculus' Palmer Luckey thinks liquid cooling is so 2015, uses propane for his PC gaming rig

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Engaging with fans and skeptics in a Reddit AMA yesterday, Oculus Rift co-founder and inventor Palmer Luckey revealed that he’s working on building a compact and “super-powerful” PC cooled by liquid propane, and presumably liquid propane accessories.

This news comes in after one Redditor inquired about Luckey’s personal computing rig, to which he initially responded as expected:

“I have lived on the bleeding edge of PC hardware for as long as I could scrape the money together, but for VR, I am sticking to hardware that sticks to our recommended specs:

That way, I get the same experience as most of my customers. I don’t want to become disconnected from the reality of how our hardware and software performs.”

What came next, however, was much less recognizable as PR rhetoric:

“As far as traditional gaming, though… I am currently working on a new PC that people might find pretty interesting. I have experimented with liquid nitrogen cooling in the past, but it is a huge pain to work with in any kind of daily use, and can also be dangerous. My new project is a very small super-powerful PC with no heatsinks and no fans – it is cooled by liquid propane, boiled into gaseous propane in an expansion block. From there, I can either compress back into a tank under high pressure, or vent out of a burner nozzle for supercooling to subzero temps. If I had more time, I would vent the propane to a small turbine generator hooked up to the PSU, but I can’t justify that kind of work right now.”

Essentially, though Luckey is using a traditional PC for VR gaming, his aforementioned side-project is infinitely more perplexing. This is a recirculating single-stage phase-change cooling system of sorts, and that while he could be buying a pre-configured setup directly off the market, another possible case is that he’s building his own.

It should be noted that the boiling point of Propane is -42 degrees Celsius, while a decent single-stage phase-change system can refrigerate several CPUs and GPUs down to about -40 degrees Celsius. At those temperatures, some pretty absurd overclocking possibilities open up, though Luckey did not say if that’s why he wants to cool his pet project so dramatically.

What’s more, Luckey plans to use the boiled propane to propel a turbine that, in turn, powers his PC. The phase-change cooling aspect isn’t out of the ordinary for hardcore PC builders. Using it to move a turbine, however, is unconventional to say the least.

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