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Liquid-Cooled Server Cuts Energy Consumption Up to 97 Percent

A liquid-cooled computer server being tested at the University of Leeds could cuts energy consumption for cooling by between 80-97 percent, according to UK company Iceotope, which designed and built the server.

While most computers use air to cool their electronics, all of the components in the Iceotope server (pictured) are completely immersed in liquid.

Iceotope is working with team of researchers led by Dr. Jon Summers from the University of Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering. The first production system has now been installed at the university after two years of testing prototypes.

The non-flammable liquid coolant, called 3M Novec, can be in direct contact with electronics because it does not conduct electricity.

There is no equivalent of the noisy fans required by traditional computers and the server does not require an elaborate pump to move the coolant over its components. Instead, a low-energy pump, located at the bottom of the cabinet, pumps a secondary coolant (water) to the top where it cascades down throughout all 48 modules due to 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. 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 just 80 W of power to harvest the heat from up to 20 kW of ICT use. The server also does away with the need for ancillary data center facilities such as computer room air conditioning units, humidity control systems and air purification.

In December 2012, Department of Defense selected Asetek to perform a $2 million project to retrofit a major DoD data center with its direct-to-chip liquid-cooling technology.

A 2011 report by Datacenter Dynamics estimated that the world’s data centers currently use 31 GW of power, the equivalent of about half of the UK’s total peak electricity demand. A 2008 report by McKinsey and Company projected that data center carbon emissions will quadruple by 2020 and a year-long investigation by the New York Times, published in September 2012, criticized the industry for its energy waste.



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