FastCompany has an article on a new technique for reducing the energy required to cool servers in data centres - Making The Internet Greener, By Dunking Servers In Mineral Oil.
The cloud -- that ubiquitous, invisible home to our email, our photos, our Facebook "Likes" -- is an energy-sucking behemoth the likes of which Planet Earth has never seen. Last I checked, one Google data center in Oregon was expected to consume as much power as every home in a small city combined. And according to Grist, a full third of that juice isn't even used to make your LOLcats searches go faster: it's simply spent on keeping those endless, Matrix-like server racks cool enough not to melt down. What's an eco-conscious internet business to do? According to the geeks at Green Revolution Cooling, you should just plop those babies in a tank of mineral oil. Seriously -- watch:
The company's GreenDEF™ dielectric coolant is an "electrically nonconductive formulation of mineral oil that holds 1200 times more heat by volume than air." Sink your server racks into a bath of this goop, says Green Revolution, and you can radically reduce those cooling-energy margins -- up to 95% in some cases. Plus it'll make your server room look like something out of Battlestar Galactica.
After the mineral oil sops up all that waste heat, it's pumped away to a radiant cooling tower to disperse into the atmosphere. (You didn't think it was going to just magically disappear, did you?) But by slashing those cooling costs -- and the energy costs of running the servers overall -- your data server will be, ideally, less of a burden on Mother Nature.
Should we expect to see Facebook and Google getting on board with this "bobbing for servers" approach to sustainability? Probably not: while Green Revolution's idea and design are ingenious, the physical tradeoffs of cooling enormous distributed data centers this way are probably prohibitive. Then again, if we're going to haul ourselves into the exascale computing era without draining Earth's batteries for good, it might just require kooky-sounding ideas like this.