Introduction: Raspberry Pi Water Cooler

Picture of Raspberry Pi Water Cooler

Hello, this is a step-by-step guide to building a water cooling system for the Raspberry Pi's ARM processor.

It all started when I say this project. I was instantly captivated, the thought of water cooling a pi had never occurred to me but once I saw it I immediately knew I wanted to build one.

So I decided to build my own. But I wanted to give the gift of easy water cooling to the entire raspberry pi community. I decided to design a 3D printable water block that anyone with access to a 3D printer could build. What if you don't have a 3D printer? Well you can still build one! Many great 3D printing services are available through the internet and all it takes is a quick Google search.

Now onto the fun part.

Step 1: Get Your Printed Pieces

Picture of Get Your Printed Pieces

Left to right are the 5 versions of the water block, the furthest right is the most refined and the only one that'll work well. The furthest left does theoretically work but it requires a high resolution 3D printer and I haven't had luck printing it successfully.

Anyway the first thing you'll need to do is get the printed pieces, in the next step we'll gather the rest of the supplies.

Download them here on Thingiverse
For those of you without access to a 3D printer you can buy the printed parts here:

Note: It is important to make sure that the square hole on the part that will hold the penny (see later steps) is .5 in by.5 in or slightly larger, sometime it can shrink during printing in which case it wont fit the ARM processor unless it is fixed.

Step 2: Let's Get the Rest of the Supplies

Picture of Let's Get the Rest of the Supplies

Here's a supply list, you'll want to gather everything before starting to make things easier on yourself.

  • Printed parts (last step)
  • Copper penny for the heat conducting plate (Must be minted before 1982 to be sure it's 95% copper) (It can also be helpful to use a dremel to sand down one or two of the sides a bit to get a flatter and cleaner surface)
  • Vinyl tubing (1/4 in. outer diameter and whatever inner diameter makes you happy, I used .17 in)
  • Silicone Waterproof Sealant
  • X-Acto knife (preferably in bright pink)
  • Some sort of liquid reservoir to hold coolant.
  • Thermal paste (don't use thermal adhesive like me it won't come apart later if you need it to)
  • Water pump (I'm using an extra pump I have from a vivarium but anything that'll fit the tube diameter will work)
  • Raspberry Pi to mount it onto
  • Mineral oil or other coolant solution (optional, water will work but will ruin your Pi if it spills)

Step 3: Seal the Penny Holding Plate

Picture of Seal the Penny Holding Plate

Start by applying sealant around the inner edge of the bottom piece like I did in the picture above, be sure to use a generous amount; you can always remove some after you put the penny in.

Step 4: Put the Penny Into the Bottom Piece

Picture of Put the Penny Into the Bottom Piece

Drop the penny into the bottom piece and press down. Make sure to get the penny as far down as possible to help prevent gaps.

During this process some sealant will likely cover one or more sides of the penny. It is very important that you clean this off so that you can get good head transfer later on.

Before moving on you may want to test this seal because after next step it will be difficult to fix any issues. To test it wait for your sealant to cure and then pour some water in, if there are leaks then dry the piece and attempt to fix them. Repeat until it is fully sealed and then move on to the next step.

Step 5: Primary Seal

Picture of Primary Seal

It is now time to seal the two pieces together. Start by squeezing a generous amount of silicone into the space on the main printed part.

Then carefully place the part holding the penny into the main piece making sure to line up the two squares to the best of your ability.

Finally push down and clean up any silicone that may squeeze out the edges. By the end of the step it should look something like the third picture.

It is not necessary but I find it helpful to use an aquarium air pump to create airflow through the piece like in the fourth image.

Step 6: Cut and Seal the Tubing

Picture of Cut and Seal the Tubing

Now it's time to cut the vinyl tubing. Figure out the lengths you need, cut them and then put them in. It'll require some force but this will help prevent leaks.

Now seal the tubing in place as I did in image 3.

Step 7: Final Leak Check

Picture of Final Leak Check

Now that you have to untested seals it's a good idea to try it out before proceeding. Use the pump (having put it in your reservoir like in the picture) and let it run, preferably with the cooling block over a container in case it leaks. If you end up with something like image 2 it's a good idea to patch up the leaks with silicone by applying it to the outside of the block.

Repeat the testing until it is leak-free.

Step 8: Attach to Your Raspberry Pi

Picture of Attach to Your Raspberry Pi

Unfortunately I attached my previous heat sink with thermal adhesive and cannot remove it to save my life. The above image is approximately what it will look like when you've attached the water block.

Edit: I attached the cooler and the pi handles turbo mode without the cpu heating up much.
Quick demo of the water cooler:

Anyway to attach the block to the Raspberry Pi apply a drop of your thermal compound onto the Pi's ARM processor and them press down firmly.

Next you should turn on the pump and make sure no water leaks out wit the Pi turned off. If no leakage occurs then you should be good and you can begin to use your Pi.

If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions feel free to tell me in the comments section.

Note: I am not responsible for any damages to your Raspberry Pi that may occur during use of this water block.


tstimpson1 (author)2014-04-08

It looks like a fun mod. I haven't messed with the pi much, and was curious about the effectiveness, which is debated here: From what I read, one point made is that the limited power consumption limits the overall potential of heat to be generated. So, a fan would probably be practical for overclocking. But I still like the option of watercooling, because if you have a cluster of many pis running together, that could generate a bit of heat and/or noise.

astral_mage (author)tstimpson12014-04-15

better yet go with a thermal electric generator. to make a battery charger to use to power the pi.

Unprecedented (author)tstimpson12014-04-08

Personally I'd prefer to water cool my PI. Fans can tend to be loud and if you're using a powerful enough pump you can split the flow up among multiple cooling blocks for even greater noise efficiency.

vha1 made it! (author)2017-03-26

It's a bit late but I did according to the instruction, worked like a charm. I used it with a RPi 3 overclocked to 1.4 GHz (may try higher frequency, but this is stable). With a stock heatsink and 5v 30mm fan the temperature reaches 66 degrees Celsius, the water cool is 43 degrees under full load. The water cool was worth a try, and thank you Unprecedented for the instruction.

Paturnus Prime (author)2017-01-08

Sand or machine the side of the penny facing the chip.You want there to be as close to 100% of the penny (used here as a heat spreader-someone later says aluminum is better-WRONG) contacting the chip. Use heatsink compound between the two items. In any large signal amplifier, copper is used as a heat spreader between the device to be cooled and the heatsink. Copper heatsinks are prohibitively expensive.

kamhagh (author)2016-07-17

Doesnt the 3d printed part leak? I was thinking of doing thr same to my square bigger heatsink to turn it into a water block for my peltier!!

Tachyon (author)2014-07-20

While this is an interesting idea given the software selectable clock of the RasPi, the problem is that you're not actually cooling the "processor" with this setup. The RasPi uses a system on a chip (SoC) which includes the processor, I/O hardware, graphics (GPU) etc. In a one chip package. That chip is installed on the system board and then the system RAM chip is installed over top of the SoC. This Package on Package mounting method has the RAM straddling the smaller SoC and covering it completely. The Pi uses an SoC designed for cell phone, mobile, and other embedded use where board space and package size are at a premium. Because of the SoC choice the only drop in, directly compatible RAM available comes in this PoP package so the Pi designers used it too.

tl;dr - you're only cooling the RAM.

MilesB5 (author)Tachyon2015-11-12

Bla, bla RAM, bla CPU, bla bla SoC. Bla bla GPU, bla PoP.

tl;dr - grow the idea.

scorp76 (author)2014-04-10

Freezing your Pi will allow you break the adhesive if am not mistaken.

kamhagh (author)scorp762015-01-28

freezing? Yes it does but why would it feeze?

derekiswise (author)2014-11-12

(just a sugestions) wouldn't it be mor effective to just put the pi in a bowl of mineral oil?
but this is a really cool project. I dont see a real need unless you are going beyond turbo however because when i am streaming video and have the cpu at 100% while on rubo i still dont generate to much heat. But really cool!

white_phox (author)2014-05-24

Would you got be better off 3D printing a silver heatsink that is contained within the water block and has a large surface area?

kyle brinkerhoff (author)2014-04-30

hmm potentially the best thermal exchange you could achieve would honestly be through a block of aluminum, in this application however, i couldn't possibly see this being viable because of the limited transfer to the actual penny that actually makes it to the water, unless you can overclock to warp speed i think regular passive heat sinks are way more than sufficient for the rpi, but still very unique and applicable knowledge to be gained through your instructable

joshabgvghn (author)2014-04-17

I need this for my laptop the temps it can get is 100C that's the CPU etc then hdd about 60 it's crazy!!!!!

pedward60 (author)2014-04-08

As a thought, I have seen this "Thermoelectric Cooler", available at sparkfun which would be more effective. requires a power source, small heat sink and some code to activate/monitor how long it is switched on for (ideal if the MCU has inbuilt temp sensor). Enjoy

Unprecedented (author)pedward602014-04-09

Awesome, thanks this looks very interesting. I'll be sure to investigate it.

look under the power generation tab.

mathieulj (author)2014-04-11

Nice idea using the penny as a heat transfer plate. It may just be me but I would be to scared the silicone would leak over time and ruin my precious electronics. Were I to repeat this instructable, I would use epoxy for a more permenant seal. Cleanup would be a pain and you have to get it right the first time but at least I wouldnt be as worried about leaks.

astral_mage (author)mathieulj2014-04-15

use mineral oil then. non conductive. an better cooling effect than water.

frankens (author)2014-04-10

I've never played around with a pi. Do they actually get that hot, or is this "just" a really cool project?

Timofte Andrei (author)frankens2014-04-14

57°C looks too hot for you? those chips are made to withstand at least 100°C with no problems at all. have you seen water or active air cooling in wireless routers? i haven't seen until now

rogier1993 (author)frankens2014-04-13

Mine almost overheated not too long ago without any overclocking, so they can get pretty hot, yes.

Unprecedented (author)frankens2014-04-10

They can get a bit hot. While it's nothing a heat sink cannot handle water cooling is, in my opinion, much cooler and it will also keep the Pi cooler.

frankens (author)Unprecedented2014-04-11

Both very good reasons. Thanks.

tronixstuff (author)2014-04-08

Why did you enter this project in the Arduino contest?

I entered this in the Arduino contest because I would love to see somebody cooling an Arduino with it.

dude check the processing power of an has less transistors inside and because of that the amount of heat radiated by the chip is too small to use a water cooling system or even an air cooling system

Roshy10 (author)Unprecedented2014-04-10

they don't even need a heat sink let alone a watercooling loop

Unprecedented (author)Roshy102014-04-10

The novelty of cooling it anyway is just to cool to resist.

Roshy10 (author)Roshy102014-04-10

except maybe on the VRM if using 15 or more volts to power it for extended periods of time.

jbrown120 (author)2014-04-07

Here's a question, how over clocked can you efficiently run the pi using the liquid cooling system?

Unprecedented (author)jbrown1202014-04-12

I've been doing some overclock tests, it's looking like the only limiting factor is going to be the amount of power that the processor can be given and the actual limit to it's performance. So far it has run cool no matter what I do.

rocketman221 (author)jbrown1202014-04-09

You won't get much better performance than using a small heatsink. The water cooler is actually connected to the ram chip, which is mounted on top of the cpu.

I am still tempted to liquid cool a raspberry pi just to say that I have done it. I wouldn't really want to leave it unattended though.

Unprecedented (author)jbrown1202014-04-08

Sorry but what do you mean by run efficiently? If you mean running it without the processor getting hot then I imagine it could likely handle 1 GHz +. I think that the only limiting factor will be the thermal conductance of the materials used. Anyway I'm about to order a new Pi so I'll be doing some overclocking and thermal tests in a few days and I'll put the results in the main post.

chriscute (author)2014-04-12

Well, Would like to help, i got stuck with my project, Is it possible to design a 555 timer AC cable tester using micro-controller?

crazyscottnb (author)2014-04-08

Good idea, but would suggest using actual coolant
rather than water, this will mean if it spills it wouldn’t do much damage to
the board.

Thank you! I wrote the instructable using only what I had on hand and forgot to throw in a note about using mineral oil or another coolant instead of water.

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