Intel gives immersive liquid cooling supercomputers a whirl

3M Novec
Electronic hydration

Intel has a plan to take computers and completely submerge them in liquid to create the best cooling solution ever.

Beyond a water-cooled heat sink, Intel and 3M (yes, the company that makes scotch tape) announced they've been working with SGI to create a completely liquid-based cooling system. The result is a system that completely immerses supercomputers in liquid to cool them more efficiently and cheaply.

As a proof of concept, the companies have built and dropped a supercomputer powered by Intel Xenon chips into a tank of Novec, a dielectric, non-conductive liquid developed by 3M. While liquids and PCs don't usually mix, this solution didn't conduct electricity so the components continued to work as usual.

The big advantage of such a liquid cooled system is fluids can pull heat away from processors and GPUs much more efficiently than air. Intel claims the technology has the potential to slash data-center energy bills by 95%.

Novec is already being used in fire suppressions systems but now Intel and SGI are experimenting with its capacity to cool computers. If everything works out Novec could be used to replace the system of fans and gallons of water currently used keep data centers chilled.

Don't wet the server room

Of course, liquid cooling isn't without its drawbacks.

One of the biggest challenges is designing new motherboards and servers to take the submersion. Companies also need to redesign rack-level interconnects since the Novec solution might affect the way light passes through optical connection cables.

A liquid cooling solution also poses problems for regular maintenance as the system needs to completely drain out before an engineer can open it up and get to the components.

It's hurdles like these that have prevented liquid submersion cooling from taking off outside of PC enthusiasts dunking their motherboards in mineral oil. It's unlikely completely liquid cooled PCs will show up at Best Buy anytime soon.

But for IT solution companies, Novec could solve a big space problem for data centers, where there might not be enough room for efficient airflow in server rooms.

  • Completely liquid cooled PCs might not be coming soon but you can look like the coolest geek with Google Glass

Via IT World

Kevin Lee

Kevin Lee was a former computing reporter at TechRadar. Kevin is now the SEO Updates Editor at IGN based in New York. He handles all of the best of tech buying guides while also dipping his hand in the entertainment and games evergreen content. Kevin has over eight years of experience in the tech and games publications with previous bylines at Polygon, PC World, and more. Outside of work, Kevin is major movie buff of cult and bad films. He also regularly plays flight & space sim and racing games. IRL he's a fan of archery, axe throwing, and board games.