95% Data-Center Cooling Energy Reduction Thanks to Fluid-Submerged Servers

grc liquid server cooling mineral oil photo

Photo: Green Revolution Cooling

Dielectric Fluid Has 1,200x Heat Retaining Capacity of Air

All kinds of industrial machines and processes are liquid-cooled, but strangely, most servers in large data-centers are still air-cooled. This doesn't make a lot of sense now that cooling costs are often as high, if not higher, than equipment costs. One of the companies working on changing that is Green Revolution Cooling. They use a non-conductive white mineral oil that holds 1,200 times more heat by volume than air to submerge servers, leading to a 95% reduction in energy used for cooling and 50% reduction in total energy use. Check out the video and pics below, and read on for the other benefits of this technology.

No Fans, No Dust

Liquid-cooling also makes it easier to recover the heat produced by the servers and to use it productively somewhere else, and equipment failure rates are apparently lowered because there are now no fans that can break (which could normally lead to over-heating and failure) and servers don't gather dust, another potential cause of problems.

grc liquid server cooling mineral oil photo

Photo: Green Revolution Cooling

Liquid-Cooling the Cloud

Now that more and more of the products and services that we use are digitized and hosted in the cloud, it's important for data-centers to be as energy efficient and green as possible.

Our system will cool up to 100kW in a 42U rack in its current configuration. This is equivalent to an air-cooled system near 120kW since nearly 20kW of that 120kW would be used by server fans. Our system offers orders of magnitude better convective cooling than an air-cooled system and thus can handle higher densities.

Also, full immersion of all components is unique to dielectric fluid submersion. Without full submersion, air is still the primary heat transfer medium and with it comes all of the limitations of air. For the rare CPU that is "thermally coupled" with a liquid, which entails a water-filled heat sink or equivalent, other components still require air cooling.

Servers that are cooled with mineral oil are also much easier to safely overclock, as this paper (PDF) explains. This can provide additional value, as the same chips are run at higher speeds.

grc liquid server cooling mineral oil photo

Photo: Green Revolution Cooling

How Much Does It Cost? How Much Would I Save?

If you are curious about costs & savings, GRC has some info here. The biggest savings will probably come from a brand new data-center that is built from the ground up with this type of liquid cooling in mind ("Imagine building a data center with a much smaller generator, smaller UPS, no CRACs, no chiller, and no raised floor!"), but apparently you can achieve decent savings with other types of retrofit installations too. As this tech becomes more popular and there's more competition in that market segments, costs should go down further.

You'll probably be washing your hands more often, though...

See also: Intel Announces Revolutionary 3D Transistors, 50%+ More Energy Efficient Than Previous Generation

If you like this article, you can follow me on Twitter (@Michael_GR) and Stumbleupon (THMike). Thanks.

More Green Tech
Google Invests $168 Million in 392MW Mojave Desert Solar Thermal Plant
China's Largest Solar Panel Maker Expect Sales to Climb 20% in 2011
We Could Have 10 MW Wind Turbines by 2011 and 15 MW Turbines by 2020

Related Content on Treehugger.com