Nano-Particles Improve Water Cooling Efficiency by 60%!


Photo: Flickr, CC
Add a Sprinkling of Zinc and Copper Dust...
Cooling things (buildings, power plants, data centers, etc) takes a lot of energy. There are different ways to go about it, but when you need a lot of cooling, water-cooling is hard to beat. And it might just be about to get even better! Researchers have found that adding some nano-particles to water can improve its thermal conductivity (its ability to move heat) by around 60%, a huge improvement! This would have many benefits, including the ability to pack even more servers in a data-center because more heat could be removed using the same water-cooling system. How does it work? Read on.
Photo: Flickr, CC
How it Works
The first problem that had to be solved was finding a way to keep whatever nano-particles you add to the water from sticking together and becoming, well, not nano anymore. This challenge was met by adding emulsifying agents that keep everything separate as much as possible.

The goal is then to figure out which elements are best as improving the conductivity of the water, and how much of them you need to have an optimal mix. So far the favorites are oxides of metals like zinc and copper, but carbon nanotubes (which are extremely versatile) are also being considered.

It is not simply a matter of the added ingredient (6-8% of the total volume seems to be the optimum mix) being a good conductor in its own right, though this helps. Nanofluids are better conductors than the sum of their parts. That suggests the particles are changing the structure of the water itself in ways that improve its conductivity. Water, despite its protean appearance, has a lot of internal structure, particularly when it is cool. The molecules are organised, albeit more loosely, in ways that resemble the material's solid form, ice. Nanoparticles inevitably alter this arrangement, and that may make the mix better able to transmit heat. (source)

Via The Economist
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Tags: Electronics | Energy Efficiency