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Liquid cooling reduces environmental footprint

Iceotope, the liquid cooling IT specialist based in Sheffield, UK, has installed its high-performance computing (HPC) servers at the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC), a subsidiary of the University of Huddersfield in the UK. The new liquid-cooled servers use roughly half the energy of traditional air-cooled systems and have been connected to the building’s heating system so that they help heat the site through the normal central heating radiators.

‘You’d be forgiven for missing the new servers, since they’re virtually silent,’ said Dr Michael Wilson, Technology Director at the 3M BIC. ‘HPC is often isolated from everyday operations, tucked away in a little sound proof room. Working with Iceotope, we’ve been able to locate powerful computing right next to our users, without detriment to their working procedures.’

The 3M BIC supports the work of a growing number of SMEs and larger companies on site, or associated with the centre. Operational since September 2013, the new servers support business-related activities across a range of fields including detailed mathematical modelling, molecular dynamics, mechanical engineering, and physics, while also offering a hands-on demonstration of computational fluid dynamics to those with a potential use for the technique.

To cool IT without traditional fans, Iceotope uses a non-flammable, dielectric liquid coolant which can be in direct contact with electronics, because it does not conduct electricity. The primary coolant is 3M Novec Engineered Fluid, which has excellent heat-transfer performance and environmental properties. The fluid can also be reclaimed and reused (extending its life cycle). Water is used as a secondary coolant, and the process uses just 107W to cool 20kW of IT.

The servers are encapsulated inside metal cases through which the fluid circulates by natural convection. All that is required to transport the heat away from the servers is a simple low energy pump, so the process is virtually silent in operation.

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