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Novel use of material sciences: immersion cooling

Immersion-cooled computers have been around forever. All it takes it some non-conducting liquid and a willingness to condemn your hardware to a sopping mess for the rest of its life. Problem is, until recently the non-conducting liquid in question has always been mineral oil, and it’s just not that glamorous to use.

But there are a variety of more exotic non-conducting liquids out there that make your immersion-cooled system much more interesting. 3M just developed one they’re calling Novec, an inert, colorless liquid which boils at 93F. The downside is that your system needs to be airtight to prevent the vaporized coolant from leaking, and it probably still requires a fan to dissipate the heat completely. But it sure is pretty to watch.

As the cost of these materials drops, I could see this technology moving from ulta-niche to general hobbyist, maybe with the participation of a case manufacturer like Antec. I wouldn’t mind having to top off my bubbling computer once in a while, especially not if it meant I could squeeze a 40% performance boost with the added heat dissipation. For data centers, where the cost of electicity is quickly eclipsing the cost of the hardware itself, and where every watt pumped into the building must be pumped back out by air conditioners, this technology is even more attractive. But without major support by rack-hardware vendors, it’s difficult to imagine it taking off, no matter the cost benefits.

Posted in Technology.


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