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Liquid-cooled computer server could help freeze internet costs

posted 27 Feb 2013, 08:11 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 27 Feb 2013, 08:13 ]
A revolutionary liquid-cooled computer server that could slash the carbon footprint of the internet has been developed by a local Rotherham company.

While most computers use air to cool their electronics, all of the components in the new server, developed by Iceotope at the Advanced Manufacturing Park (AMP) are completely immersed in liquid. The power-hungry fans of traditional computing are replaced by a silent next-generation liquid-cooling process that relies on the natural convection of heat.

But the significance of the new Iceotope server lies less in the novelty of its design than in the bite it could take out of the huge electricity demands of the internet servers that form the fabric of our online lives. Its designers calculate that the server cuts energy consumption for cooling by between 80 percent and 97 percent.  

A 2011 report by Datacenter Dynamics estimated that the world’s data centres currently use 31 gigawatts of power, the equivalent of about half of the UK’s total peak electricity demand.

Iceotope have worked with a team of researchers from the University of Leeds’ School of Mechanical Engineering, and the first production system has now been installed at the University after two years of prototype testing.

Neil Bennett, CEO of Iceotope, said: "Information technology has been the poster child of the new economy but its environmental impact has frequently been unaddressed. Given the increasing scarcity of resources such as energy and clean water, Iceotope delivers computing with a conscience. We are proud to have the University of Leeds as partners on this disruptive and exciting journey."

Peter Hopton, Iceotope’s Chief Technology Officer and originator of the Iceotope concept, said: “More than five years of research, innovation and collaboration have gone into Iceotope’s technology. The basic principle of the design has many applications and, while a few years away, there is no reason why every home shouldn't make better use of the surplus heat from consumer electronics, imagine having your PC or TV plumbed into the central heating system." 

The system uses a revolutionary liquid coolant called 3MTM NovecTM, which can be in direct contact with electronics because it does not conduct electricity. You could throw your mobile phone in a tub of the coolant and the phone would still work perfectly.

It also uses a simple low energy pump, located at the bottom of the server cabinet, to pump water to the top where it cascades down throughout all 48 modules due to gravity, before returning to a heat exchanger, where the heat can be taken away for external cooling or reuse.

The coolant for use with this heat exchanger 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 watts of power to harvest the heat from up to 20 kilowatts of ICT use. The server also does away with the need for ancillary data centre facilities such as computer room air conditioning (CRAC) units, humidity control systems and air purification. 

For more information visit the Iceotope website.