Submerged servers set to slash datacentre energy use

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Iceotope water-cooled radiator at Leed University

Water cooling has long been a feature of the datacentre, dating back to the days when mainframe's had to be plumbed in to avoid the problem of overheating.

But the University of Leeds has gone one stage further, not just running cold liquid pipes around its hardware, but going the whole hog and submerging its servers underwater. It believes this might help it reduce energy consumption by up to 97 percent.

The system, built by researchers at the university and hardware firm Iceotope, have been tested for the past two years, and are now in production.

These so-called wet servers use a non-flammable, non-conducting liquid, called 3M Novec, which takes the heat away from the processors.

“The liquid we are using is extraordinary stuff. You could throw your mobile phone in a tub of it and the phone would work perfectly,” said Jon Summers, from the University of Leeds' School of Mechanical Engineering. 

“But 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.”

That means that the servers can run without air conditioning, humidity controls or air purification systems.

The system uses a simple low-energy pump, located at the bottom of the cabinet, to pump water to the top where it cascades down to the heat exchangers, while a third coolant is used to take the heat away completely.

According to Iceotope, the system he uses just 80 watts of power to harvest the heat from up to 20 kilowatts of IT use.

27 Feb 2013

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