Despite the best efforts of some very bright minds, energy use for modern data centers and servers continues to rise. One of the biggest reasons for the relentless growth is due to the rooms’ insatiable need for cooling – as companies continue to pack ever-growing numbers of computers and chips into a limited area, it becomes more and more difficult to keep the systems cool. Some data centers have resorted to opening the doors in winter months, letting the vast amounts of cool outside air keep things from burning to a crisp.
The UK’s University of Leeds, however, thinks they’ve got a better solution. Engineers have come up with a system by which servers and other hot data center components are submerged within a proprietary liquid from 3M known as Novec. The systems can survive being completely submerged in the fluid, as the Novec doesn’t conduct electricity – it’s completely inert.
A server submerged in such a fluid could interface with pipes containing water, recycled water, or some other fluid in order to carry the heat away. University researchers estimate that such a system could require somewhere between 80% and 97% less electricity and cost to keep cool. The system has a number of other benefits, too, chief of which is noise – unlike a traditional cooling setup which is filled with multiple fans, the new Novec-cooled servers are nearly silent. It opens up a wider range of uses for the servers, outside of a data room and into a classroom or library.
The first company to produce servers built on the new technology is known as Iceotope (get it?), and has been working with Leeds researchers for the last five years. A new system, installed at Leeds, is the company’s first production server.