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Supercomputer Submersion Cutting Energy Bills

KFCComputer engineers are experimenting with submerging supercomputers into vats of liquid in a bid to prevent overheating, reports The New York Times.

So called submersion cooling could save one of the biggest headaches facing the IT sector:  how to trim air conditioning and heating costs.

The Tokyo Institute of Technology’s Tsubame KFC supercomputer (pictured) is submerged in a vat of mineral oil and was just ranked by the Green500 as the most energy efficient of its kind. The supercomputer is 50 percent more powerful than an older computer while using the same amount of energy, the paper reports.

In Sheffield, England, IT infrastructure start-up Iceotope has developed a technique that submerges computers in fluoroplastic, rather than oil, for clients including universities in the UK and Poland. The company recently raised around $10 million from venture capital investors backed by data center cooling specialist Schneider Electric, the paper reports.

Hong Kong-based Allied Control uses submersion systems for a recently opened data center operated by Asicminer, a company that carries out work for the virtual currency Bitcoin.

Neither mineral oil nor fluoroplastic conduct electricity, so there is no risk of shorting out components, according to experts, the paper reports.

Peter Hopton, Iceotope’s chief executive, told the paper that data centers that use air conditioning could cut their energy bills in half with the technology.

Indeed, an Iceotope immersed computer server tested at the University of Leeds, England, in March 2013 was expected to cut energy consumption for cooling by between 80-97 percent.

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.

In November, HGST launched a helium-based hard drive platform to improve data center capacity, power usage, cooling and storage density. The 6-terabyte Ultrastar He6 hard drive seals the spinning disks inside a helium-filled chamber.

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