Intel and SGI trial submerging servers in liquid to cool them

By on April 9, 2014, 8:30 AM
intel, server, cooling, supercomputer, sgi, liquid

Intel and SGI have been trialing a new method of cooling servers and supercomputers that involves submerging them completely in liquid. This cooling solution doesn't rely on water though, as its properties would damage components, instead opting for a dielectric liquid from 3M called 'Novec'.

Fire suppression systems already harness Novec, but this is the first time it has been used as a cooling solution in data centers. The idea is that it would completely replace a standard air and water server cooling system, reducing energy consumption and improving overall efficiency.

Michael Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel, believes that energy bills could be cut by over 90% by using a dielectric fluid like Novec to cool servers. Novec absorbs the heat from the components it's in direct conatct with, acting like a massive heatsink without becoming superheated, and periodic recycling of the liquid can keep hardware at a constant temperature.

Cooling servers by submersion is in its infancy though, as motherboards and other components need to be redesigned to work properly in the fluid. However Patterson sees this is as a potential opportunity: as current server designs maximize air flow, which isn't an issue in a submerged cooling solution, hardware could be packed more densely.

Intel and SGI see the technology as having great potential, although more time will be needed to refine the system further. The companies currently have test setups in action, but a commercial release is still way off.

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