Is Single-Phase Immersion Cooling the Best Sustainable Cooling Solution?

Is Single-Phase Immersion Cooling the Best Sustainable Cooling Solution?

On: November 3, 2022 Comments: 0

Excitement is building in the data center industry over several cooling technologies that promise to make facilities more sustainable. These solutions include single-phase and two-phase immersion cooling and direct-to-chip cooling. There are indications that single-phase immersion cooling is the best sustainable cooling solution, but what’s the truth?

We’ve looked at the data, and there are clear differences in terms of how each of these systems performs ecologically. While each has some potential contribution to make, single-phase immersion cooling delivers the most practical improvement in terms of sustainability.

This is great news, since single-phase immersion cooling also offers numerous other advantages to data center operators. For instance, the technology cuts operational costs substantially, and it also cuts capital expenditures if you’re building or expanding a data center.

More people in the industry are paying attention to sustainability, so now is an ideal time to consider the most sustainable cooling technology and how it can help you.

immersion cooling is among the most sustainable ways to cool data centers
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The Need for Sustainable Cooling

A few years ago, only the most forward-thinking data center operators made any significant efforts toward sustainability. In the last few years however, sustainable cooling has become one of the most pressing issues for the industry.

For example, customers are demanding more and more that the businesses they patronize deliver their products and services in a more sustainable manner. In addition, regulations are increasing, along with the public outcry for green data centers. Board rooms have noticed and are moving sustainable cooling to the top of the agenda.

Sustainable cooling is no longer just an option for a few passionate data center operators; it’s an industry-wide need. All data centers must become sustainable, and cooling is one of the major areas in which this can be achieved.

The Contenders

all data centers should adopt green practices
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Among the range of available data center cooling technologies, three are gaining attention for the potential to increase sustainability: single-phase immersion, two-phase immersion, and direct-to-chip. These offerings are stirring up excitement, but there’s also some misinformation out there.

The two types of immersion cooling work by submerging entire servers in a liquid coolant. In single-phase, the coolant remains liquid, while in two-phase the coolant also transitions to gas. Direct-to-chip works by pumping liquid coolant through a metal plate that connects to a processor.

Direct-to-Chip: Complex and Unsustainable

Also called cold plate cooling, direct-to-chip cooling brings the liquid to the processing units, such as the central processing unit (CPU). This doesn’t cool the other parts of the IT hardware, as immersion cooling does, so you also need to blow air over the hardware. And, you need a complex and unsustainable infrastructure to support that air cooling.

Direct-to-chip performs somewhat better than conventional air cooling, thanks to the liquid-fed cold plate. However, the liquid doesn’t reach as much of the equipment as immersion cooling, so it’s not as compelling a choice for sustainability. Also, direct-to-chip suffers from some serious drawbacks.

First, the technology is quite complex, and it becomes much more complex as you increase your use. This adds many points of potential failure and makes it impractical for large deployments. In addition, the fluids used for direct-to-chip may not be the most ecological, and they can destroy IT hardware.

While there are specific situations in which direct-to-chip cooling is useful, it’s too complex and inefficient to serve as the sustainable cooling solution.

Two-Phase Immersion: Expensive and Inaccessible

Two-phase immersion has also drawn some interest from large tech companies. Servers are placed in an engineered fluorocarbon liquid, and the server heat causes this liquid to boil into a gas. In theory, this system is extremely efficient, and a few data centers have started experimenting with it. However, these remain scattered experiments rather than large deployments.

Two-phase immersion seems destined to remain an interesting experiment rather than a practical solution. The systems are quite expensive, and the fluids tend to be unsafe for the environment, human health, and IT equipment. It’s also difficult to acquire and maintain fluid stocks.

Recently, this difficulty became even worse. The company 3M produces the main fluid for two-phase immersion cooling called Novec. Pollution recently closed 3M’s factory in Belgium, leading to a shortage of Novec fluid and adversely affecting the data centers depending on it. The United States and European Union are working to restrict production.

Additionally, when you perform maintenance on servers in two-phase tanks, you lose some of the expensive fluid to evaporation. When you account for the costs of replacement, two-phase immersion is no longer an energy-saving technique.

While two-phase immersion shows some theoretical promise, it’s too costly and impractical to serve as a sustainable solution.

Single-Phase Immersion: The Winner

Where direct-to-chip and two-phase immersion fall short, single-phase immersion cooling shines. This technology is simple and efficient, environmentally friendly, and already installed in large deployments globally.

Green Revolution Cooling’s (GRC) single-phase immersion tanks feature an extremely simple design that produces reliable cooling. This isn’t just some theory, it’s the economics of future-proof data center cooling. The technology is widely available and even more affordable than old air cooling. You can install it right now and cut your carbon emissions, water waste, and total cost of ownership.

The data center cooling industry sees single-phase immersion cooling as the best sustainable solution. It conserves resources and protects your IT equipment to minimize e-waste. In addition, the excess server heat is transferred into a liquid so you can reuse it to heat building air and water, among other applications.

This remarkable technology also supports high-density computing, making it ideal for the most demanding use cases. Even regular data centers can benefit from the ecological advantages. For data centers of any size in any location, single-phase immersion cooling dominates in terms of sustainability.

Use the Best Cooling Solution with GRC

Single-phase liquid immersion is the best sustainable cooling system you can buy. It’s available now and will cut your cooling costs in half while protecting the environment. This is the answer the data center industry has been waiting for.

While there’s been talk of several other technologies for sustainable cooling, such as direct-to-chip and two-phase immersion, those aren’t ready for prime time. Direct-to-chip is complex and of lesser ecological value. Two-phase immersion is expensive and impractical.

When one examines the data, single-phase liquid immersion emerges as the leading green cooling technology. It drastically cuts electricity use, carbon emissions, water waste, e-waste, and a range of other problems. The choice is clear. Talk with GRC about your sustainable data center plans today.