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Liquid-Cooled Supercomputers, to Trim the Power Bill


Project leader Satoshi Matsuoka with the mineral oil-cooled Tsubame KFC supercomputer.

The Tokyo Institute of Technology is cooling its Tsubame KFC supercomputer with mineral oil. In November, the Tsubame KFC was named the greenest supercomputer in the Green500 industry ranking.

Credit: Jeremie Souteyrat/The New York Times

Submerging supercomputers and servers in oil or other liquids to cool them off might offer a way to reduce massive energy consumption.

Mineral oil and liquid fluoroplastics do not conduct electricity, and therefore present no risk of short-circuiting or damaging equipment as water would, experts say. Submersion technology can save a facility millions of dollars a year in air conditioning electricity expenses and reduces the need for air conditioning and filtering equipment.

The Tokyo Institute of Technology is cooling its Tsubame KFC supercomputer with mineral oil developed by Green Revolution. The institute made only a few adjustments to prepare the Tsubame KFC for submersion, including removing moving parts such as hard drives and fans. In November, Tsubame KFC was named the greenest supercomputer in the Green500 industry ranking.

Although Cray used submersion cooling for one of its systems in the 1980s, concerns about cost and the impact of those coolants on the ozone prevented the method from gaining popularity. In contrast, new liquids are said not to deplete the ozone.

Several data centers, including some U.S. Department of Defense facilities, have tested Green Revolution's cooling method. In a one-year study of the system, Intel saw a large drop in power consumption and discovered no adverse effects on its servers.

From The New York Times
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