Why doesn't anyone consider cooling servers and CPUs with a cryogenic cooler that uses the heat generated by the servers/CPUs and produces cooling on the spot -- i.e., within the racks?
Cryocoolers, or cryogenic coolers, are heat engines based on the principles of Stirling engines; they've been used for decades in many industries. A Stirling-engine-based cryogenic cooler is a theoretical option for the data center, but they need to be large enough to be effective. And with increasing densities of equipment such large CPU-mounted systems are not acceptable.
Cryocoolers, however, can be useful for in-cabinet or in-row cooling. But the problem is being able to route enough hot air to the cryocooler to run it effectively, and then use the cold junction generated to create a closed-loop cooling system. This would require more powered fans and ducting to ensure air-flows are working adequately.
A power-free type of Stirling engine system needs a temperature differential to work effectively; ambient temperatures of 77 degrees Fahrenheit (25 degrees Celsius), for instance, will require a warmer air temperature to drive the cycle that will stress the components of a data center environment.
Applying power to drive the compressor provides a standard refrigerant approach, as with the Cold Head StirlingCool-10, a two-part assembly that needs 400 W to operate at full capability and is rated for cooling a 10-W thermal load to 80 degrees Kelvin. Server chips have higher thermal output than this (around 80 to 150 W), but don't need as much cooling.
Stirling Cryogenics -- the spin-off from Philips N.V. that began manufacturing cryogenic coolers in 1960 -- focuses on liquefaction and other low-temperature systems; it doesn't seem to have any capability for data center cooling. At the moment, I would say that the costs of implementing a Stirling-engine-based cryocooler system would be far too high and with little overall benefit for a data center.
About the author:
Clive Longbottom is the co-founder and service director of IT research and analysis firm Quocirca, based in the U.K. Longbottom has more than 15 years of experience in the field. With a background in chemical engineering, he's worked on automation, control of hazardous substances, document management and knowledge management projects.
Dig Deeper on Data center design and facilities
Related Q&A from Clive Longbottom
IT departments can integrate AI capabilities with their data center management workflows using machine learning algorithms that enable admins to ... Continue Reading
How can you maintain network security beyond the standard firewall and blacklisting tactics? Encryption and digital rights management can ensure ... Continue Reading
SIEM tools deliver automated alert actions, normalize log data and provide intelligent filtering, all of which can help IT administrators lighten ... Continue Reading