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Efficient cooling systems in future data centers? Yes, please!

Data centers are vital in our dynamic digital landscape, storing and processing data for various sectors like e-commerce, social media, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence. However, the increasing data demands pose a significant challenge: the need for efficient cooling systems.

Data centers generate substantial heat due to the continuous operation of servers, and efficient cooling is essential to ensure optimal performance, prevent equipment overheating, and maintain data integrity.

However, the energy consumption associated with cooling these facilities raises environmental concerns and contributes to significant carbon emissions. Acknowledging the urgency of this issue, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) recently announced USD 40 million in funding for different projects to develop efficient cooling systems for data centers.

15 projects will receive funds to develop efficient cooling systems

U.S. DOE’s million-dollar investment has been dedicated to researching and implementing efficient cooling solutions at 15 data centers located at national labs, universities, and businesses across the country. This investment has a clear objective: enhancing operational efficiency, minimizing environmental impact, and aligning with the ambitious goal of achieving net-zero emissions by 2050.

The efficient operation of data centers relies heavily on maintaining optimal temperatures for the equipment. High-performance servers and networking devices generate substantial heat, which, if not properly managed, can lead to equipment failure and service disruptions. Therefore, effective cooling systems are crucial to dissipate heat and keep the infrastructure functioning smoothly.

Here’s a list of the 15 projects that have been selected by the U.S. DOE

The following 15 projects have been selected to receive funding for the development of advanced and efficient cooling systems, each employing different methods to enhance data center cooling efficiency.

They are selected as part of DOE’s Cooling Operations Optimized for Leaps in Energy, Reliability, and Carbon Hyperefficiency for Information Processing Systems (COOLERCHIPS) program that falls under the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E).

Flexnode, Bethesda, MD (Amount $3,500,000): Prefab and modular construction will be used to design an EDGE data center.

Four key components and system-level technology advancements will be used for efficient cooling-

  • A novel manifold microchannel heatsink
  • A chassis-based hybrid immersion cooling approach
  • A cost-effective additive manufacturing-enabled dry cooling heat exchanger system
  • A topology-optimized container housing the entire system

HP Corvallis, OR (Amount: $3,250,000): They will develop a liquid cooling solution that reduces thermal resistance by minimizing the need for thermal interface material.

HRL Laboratories, Malibu, CA (Amount: $2,000,000): Develop a novel data center thermal management system with low thermal resistance and greater energy efficiency, which will help reduce the power consumption of their next-gen data centers.

Intel Federal, Austin, TX Amount: $1,711,416): Develop heat skins that will spread the heat more effectively.

JETCOOL Technologies, Littleton, MA (Amount: $1,265,747): JETCOOL will develop cooling technology that will reduce CPU temperatures and reduce leakage current, leading to 8-10% power savings. An in-server radiator will eliminate the need for a dedicated cooling system.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), Golden, CO (Amount: $1,463,319): NREL will create testing protocols to assess COOLERCHIPS’ cooling technologies in real data center operating conditions. They will leverage the work of other project teams to develop a digital twin, enabling the evaluation of key parameters and testing various technologies for thermal efficiency, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.

Nvidia, Santa Clara, CA (Amount: $5,000,000): Develop a modular data center with a multi-aspect innovative cooling system to achieve a thermal resistance as low as 0.0025°C/W.

Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN (Amount: $1,881,315): An innovative jet cooling solution will enhance overall thermal performance while reducing pumping power.

Raytheon Technologies Research Center, East Hartford, CT (Amount: $2,504,024): A system to remove heat from sources in servers using ribbon oscillating heat pipes.

University of California, Davis, CA (Amount: $3,586,473): Holistic thermal management solutions will be incorporated into their modular data center for edge computing.

University of Florida, Gainesville, FL (Amount: $3,042,417): Their focus is on developing a thermal management solution capable of efficiently cooling future CPU and GPU chips, even at high heat flux and power levels within the data center.

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Champaign, IL (Amount: $2,500,000): They will develop a cooling system capable of minimizing energy use while delivering maximum cooling power.

University of Maryland, College Park, MD (Amount: $3,484,484): They will develop an integrated support software tool that seamlessly connects existing open-source software models for reliability, energy consumption, carbon footprint, and cost with an innovative co-simulation framework.

University of Missouri Columbia, MO (Amount: $1,649,290): An innovative, scalable cooling solution will offer several advantages over existing phase-change processes to cool data centers.

University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX (Amount: $2,843,223): They are bringing hybrid cooling technology to meet the increasing demand for advanced cooling solutions in high-power data centers.

The environmental impact of data centers’ cooling requirements cannot be overlooked. Addressing the energy consumption and environmental impact associated with cooling is a critical step toward creating a sustainable digital infrastructure. In a world where an overwhelming amount of data is generated daily, tech giants worldwide are increasingly establishing new data centers. Opting for sustainability in these endeavors is a significant advantage.

The recent announcement of a million-dollar investment specifically targeting efficient cooling at data centers signifies a turning point in the industry’s approach to this issue.

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