Immersion cooling is a precision technology used in data centers as a supplement or alternative to traditional air cooling. It involves immersing servers in specially engineered dielectric fluids that cool the submerged units and maintain their peak performance. As the fluids used in immersion technology do not conduct electricity, they pose no risk of damaging computer components.
For all its promise and practicality, moving to immersion cooling still presents some challenges. Though it delivers long-term cost savings by dramatically reducing electricity usage, immersion systems may require additional infrastructure investment, and changes to existing maintenance processes may be needed.
Fortunately, there are several innovations and data center advancements on the horizon that will address these and other lingering issues.
Advancements Poised to Transform Immersion Cooling in the Near Term
Three key immersion technology advancements are ready to make an impact in the near-term. These include replacement heat sinks, alternate thermal interface materials, and colder fluids.
Replacement Heat Sinks
Data center heat sinks have traditionally been air-cooled. However, Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) has worked with multiple partners to develop alternative components for air-cooled servers to enhance their performance when immersed. The result is a specially engineered heat sink that incorporates immersion cooling and has succeeded in cutting thermal resistance in half. Testing showed a 100% performance improvement, signaling significant market potential for the novel heat sink design.
Alternate Thermal Interface Materials
Most immersion fluids on the market use foil-based thermal interface materials (TIMs), such as Indium. Although the current generation of TIMs outperforms conventional data center cooling systems in many ways, room for performance improvements remains. This is especially true for the thermal resistance characteristics of current TIMs.
Innovators have already engineered alternative TIMs with superior thermal resistance and performance specifications. In one recent test, an emerging TIM displayed a 25% maximum wattage improvement during testing on high-performance Intel processors.
Immersion systems are generally capable of delivering effective cooling without the need for fluid chillers. That said, in some data centers, unrefrigerated fluids have limited practicality. For instance, ambient T-case temperatures come close to levels that cannot effectively be cooled without the use of fluid chilling systems.
Notably, most data centers have built-in water-chilling systems. This opens up retrofitting possibilities involving the engineered cooling fluids used in immersion systems. These systems can be configured to use the minimum amount of cooling necessary to optimize the performance of submerged computing components.
Using existing cooling infrastructure to create colder immersion fluids streamlines retrofitting projects and enhances sustainability. While this strategy has a relatively narrow set of potential use cases, it offers considerable benefits in those instances.
Integrating AI with Immersion Cooling
When combined with human supervision, AI and machine learning technologies are able to markedly improve data center performance, efficiency, and security and — should problems arise—to take corrective action and issue alerts to human personnel.
For example, to ensure the performance and integrity of immersed IT equipment the engineered fluids used in immersion cooling require close monitoring and analysis. This is because ongoing cooling processes can lead to changes in immersion tank conditions. One example is the potential degradation of the fluid’s performance characteristics, and thus the need for technicians to replace these fluids over time.
AI immersion cooling technologies can be configured to monitor fluid conditions, ensuring their safety and performance integrity. And thanks to automation, AI monitoring tools have the power to substantially minimize the logistical complexity involved in immersion system maintenance. This, in turn, generates further efficiency benefits and cuts costs while elevating data center performance and security.
Furthermore, predictive AI technologies draw on vast troves of historical data to project future maintenance needs. This reduces the amount of human labor required for data center monitoring, generating cost savings and supporting the more efficient allocation of resources.
GRC Connects Data Center Operators With Next-Generation Immersion Cooling Technologies
Immersion cooling is an important innovation with the potential to transform data center management logistics. As such, data-intensive applications—including AI and blockchain technology—are primed to reshape the computing landscape. Looking to 2024 and beyond, data centers will require ever greater processing capabilities as these technologies become integrated into the computing mainstream.
The current generation of immersion cooling technologies supports high-density applications. Near-term advancements hold even greater promise, with immersion systems empowering engineers to reimagine heat sink designs, develop advanced TIMs, and use data center infrastructure in innovative ways. This is especially true when considering the additional performance advantages offered by AI and machine learning.
As an industry-leading innovator and partner to some of the world’s largest technology companies, GRC provides advanced immersion cooling solutions for data centers seeking to future-proof their operations. GRC is also an early adopter of AI technologies for data centers, further raising its profile as a key provider of next-generation technological solutions.
GRC’s product lineup includes micro-modular, rack-based immersion systems, along with cooling systems for blockchain applications, precision-engineered cooling fluids, and more. For further information, or to discuss your data center cooling needs in detail, contact GRC today.