A data center with its infrastructural complexity including data storage, computer rack server, and telecommunications has electrical power and cooling needs for proper operation. In fact, more than 65% of equipment failures in an IT context are attributed to inadequate and improperly maintained air conditioning systems.
The importance of data cooling systems cannot be overstated. Conventional cooling for data centers consisted of a traditional air conditioning systems. The computer rack server and its electrical components stayed cooled with the introduction of the forced air, however, it is not the most efficient method.
Engineers and designers of data center systems are constantly working on more efficient climate control systems. Optimization of the computer server rack, location of computer cooling systems, and separation of cold and hot aisles along with configuring cabling contributes to increased efficiency of data center cooling systems.
Some IT companies have introduced the novel design of immersion cooling.
What is immersion cooling? In immersion cooling, computer hardware heating is reduced by a thermally conductive liquid that is used as a bath. For example, a basic application of the method is to take computer hardware and immerse it in mineral oil. Entire servers can be cooled in this fashion, not simply one hardware component. There are two different aspects to this technology that we will look at next.
Single-Phase Immersion Cooling
An insulating, or dielectric, liquid such as mineral oil serves as the coolant for computer rack servers. Racks can be filled with up to 250 gallons of clear, non-toxic, slightly viscous mineral oil. Vertical racks are designed so that they can be submerged into the cooling liquid. Pumps move and circulate the coolant. This is a more efficient cooling system than using cold air alone.
Two-Phase Immersion Cooling
Servers are placed vertically into a computer server rack that is submerged into an insulating chemical made by the 3M company. The fluid has a low boiling point so that when the temperature increases, the fluid will remove heat through evaporation due to the boiling. The evaporated heat condenses and then is cooled by water on the head of the rack. The force of gravity takes over and the reconstituted liquid flows down to the cooling bath. This system is not conducted in a vacuum and it is passive, in other words, no electrical pump is used to move the liquid or air.
Immersion cooling is a promising new technology that is both feasible and applicable for data center cooling. The debate continues over the cost effectiveness of air cooling and immersion liquid cooling. Both systems have their advantages and disadvantages. Research and development continues on immersion cooling and the costs and benefits will continue to be examined and weighed. One such concern is the disposal of the large volume of liquid coolant. This technology will continue to challenge traditional air-cooled methods. It will also push engineers to continue to innovate and develop the best, most cost-effective, and environmentally-friendly, or green cooling solutions for data center use.