When IBM researchers went looking for a better coolant for high-powered computers, they didn't have to look very far. Working alongside researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH), IBM has developed a water-cooled, high-performance computer that will recycle waste heat while reducing energy consumption at data farms. Known as the Aquasar, its carbon footprint could be 85% less than similar air-cooled systems, saving 30 tons of CO2 per year while augmenting buildings' heating systems.
Most data centers are air-cooled, requiring powerful, energy-intensive cooling systems running around the clock to keep servers from overheating. IBM's researchers looked to water as a coolant because it transfers heat 4,000 times more efficiently than air. The Aquasar requires just ten liters of water moving at a rate of about 30 liters per minute to keep the system cool. Water leeches the heat from the server's blades, then can efficiently transfer waste warmth into a building's core heating system, further reducing energy consumption. The closed-loop system then returns the cool water back to the system to be heated again.
Aquasar will debut at ETH Zurich in 2010, cutting energy use there by 40% while heating other academic buildings. The 10-teraflop Aquasar is the result of a larger collaboration between IBM, ETH and the Swiss Competence Center for Energy and Mobility that aims to create zero-emission computing and data centers.