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'Immersed' cooling of components will slash data centre costs say researchers

Completely immersing data centre components in liquid could slash energy costs according to researchers at the University of Leeds

The server system from UK specialist Iceotope replaces fans and air cooling with a liquid cooling system.

Iceotope designers claim that the server cuts energy consumption for cooling by between 80 per cent and 97 per cent.  

UK company Iceotope designed and built its new server working with team of researchers led by Dr Jon Summers from the University of Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering, whose team used computational fluid dynamics to model how the coolant flows through the components. The first production system has now been installed at the University after two years of testing.

Dr Summers said: “The important thing for the future of computing and the internet is that it is more than 1,000 times more effective at carrying heat than air. The cooling of servers is traditionally done using fans and air conditioning units, but air is a great insulator. We use it in double glazing. Why would you use it to cool a server?” he added.

The system uses one of 3M Novec’s engineered fluids, which can be in direct contact with electronics because it does not conduct electricity.

A low energy pump, located at the bottom of the cabinet, pumps water as secondary coolant to the top where it cascades down via gravity.

The secondary coolant terminates at heat exchangers within the cabinet for transfer of heat to a third and final coolant, on an external loop, taking the heat away for external cooling or reuse.

The third coolant can be drawn from “grey water” sources such as rainwater or river water, further reducing the environmental impact of the server, the researchers said. Because of the high cooling efficiency of the system, the output water can reach temperatures of up to 50 degrees Centigrade, which can be used for heating and other uses.

The Iceotope system uses 80 W of power to harvest the heat from up to 20 kW of IT use. The server also does away with the need for ancillary data centre facilities such as CRAC (computer room air conditioning) units and humidifiers.

Dr Nikil Kapur, from the School of Mechanical Engineering, added: “The fact that this system is completely enclosed raises a host of possibilities. It does not interact with its environment in the way an air-cooled server does, so you could put it in an extreme environment like the desert. It is also completely silent. You could have it on a submarine or in a classroom.”

Neil Bennett, CEO of Iceotope, said: “We are proud to have the University of Leeds as partners on this disruptive and exciting journey.”

Peter Hopton, Iceotope’s Chief Technology Officer and originator of the Iceotope concept, added: “The basic principle of the design has many applications and, while a few years away, there is no reason why every home shouldn’t make better use of the surplus heat from consumer electronics, imagine having your PC or TV plumbed into the central heating system.”



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