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A very good way of cooling servers

Crucial trials: Heat recovered from a rack of Sheffield-based Iceotopes eco-friendly servers is used to heat a domestic radiator at the first production installation, under test at Leeds University

Crucial trials: Heat recovered from a rack of Sheffield-based Iceotopes eco-friendly servers is used to heat a domestic radiator at the first production installation, under test at Leeds University

  • by BOB RAE Business Editor
 

The first production model of a revolutionary, energy saving, liquid-cooled computer server, developed by a Sheffield firm, starts undergoing crucial proving tests today.

City-based Icetope says the server, which is being tested by Leeds University, could slash the carbon footprint of the internet.

Chief technology officer, Peter Hopton, founder of eco-friendly PC manufacturer Very PC, 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.”

Iceotope’s technology is already a winner, having picked up a sheaf of awards from the computing and electronics industries.

While most computers use air to cool their electronics, all of the components in the new server are completely immersed in a non-flammable, non-conducting liquid coolant, developed by 3M and called Novec.

Replacing the power-hungry fans traditionally used in computers could cut the energy needed to cool servers by between 80 per cent and 97 per cent.

That would have a massive impact on the energy used by the world’s data centres, estimated in 2011 to be around 31 gigawatts, or about half the UK’s total peak electricity demand.

Iceotope worked with researchers led by Dr Jon Summers from Leeds University of School of Mechanical Engineering to design and build the new server that the University is now testing.

Dr Summers’ team used computational fluid dynamics to model how the coolant flows through the new server’s components.

He said: “The liquid we are using is extraordinary stuff. You could throw your mobile phone in a tub of it and the phone would work perfectly.

“But, the important thing for the future of computing and the internet is that it is more than 1,000 times more effective at carrying heat than air.”

The Iceotope system requires just 80 watts of power to ‘harvest’ up to 20 kilowatts of heat produced by the computers and does away with the need for additional equipment like computer room air conditioning units, humidity control systems and air purification.

The electronics and the Novec are sealed in a metal case, or module, which has cooling channels on its exterior surface.

A total of 48 modules are installed in a single cabinet; a simple low-energy pump lifts water to the top of the cabinet and it flows under gravity, through the channels in the modules, to heat exchangers within the cabinet.

The heat exchangers transfer the heat to a separate system, containing a third and final coolant.

Because of the high cooling efficiency of the system, the output water can reach up to 50C, allowing it to be used for heating or the energy recovered for other purposes.

 

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