Extreme Low Energy Server Cooling

Lead Research Organisation: Queen Mary, University of London
Department Name: Sch of Engineering and Materials Science

Abstract

This feasibility study investigates a novel cooling solution to servers in datacentres, by reducing the energy demand. The growing ICT demand is outpacing technological developments in sustainable energy management for ICT systems. The energy usage of datacentres has a growth of roughly 11% per year over the last decade. However, around 33% of the energy consumption is due to the mechanical cooling provided by conventional convection fans, in order to cool the servers.

Extreme Low Energy - Ele has previously developed a DC based infrastructure for operating desktop computers at very low energy levels, which have been used in African countries where energy grids are unreliable. The removal of AC/DC power supplies has delivered improved energy performance levels and has also removed a lot of heat created during the AC to DC conversion process. Together with Lancaster University, this study is intended to systematically assess the feasibility of an alternative air moving system using piezoelectric actuators replacing conventional fans for DC based server cooling. It will analyse the technology's potential in terms of cooling efficiency, costs and robustness.

This feasibility study will develop new cooling systems for practical applications of server cooling using a combination of sophisticated modelling/simulation investigations, experimental testing and design. The focus will be on cooling by alternative air movers using piezoelectric actuators, combined with DC power solution for datacentres.

Planned Impact

Currently datacentres account for nearly 2% of world's total electricity usage, increased historically from 0.53% in 2000, 0.97% in 2005 and1.31% in 2010. Energy-efficient computing involves thermal, electrical, and energy management. In an average datacentre, cooling and electrical power delivery use about 50% of the total energy. In a broader sense, almost all types of IT equipment including distributed computers such as desktops have the same cooling requirements. The energy overhead of IT equipment such as computers is mainly associated with the mechanical cooling provided by fans (air-cooled systems), accounting for about 1/3 of the total electricity consumption. The energy consumption is becoming increasingly untenable for the IT sector.

The development of alternative advanced cooling technologies (mostly developed from other technological areas than ICT) has created a sense of hope that future energy usage of computers can be reduced. In order for these new technologies to have a positive impact on reducing energy use of computers, it is of critical importance that the most suitable technologies are fully assessed and optimised. Using advanced modelling/simulation and laboratory testing, this proposal aims to investigate advanced cooling technologies, such as cooling by alternative air movers using piezoelectric actuators, in order to fully understand the feasibility of using them in next-generation ICT facilities.

Outside of academia, industrial sectors such as the manufacturing and energy sectors both in the UK and beyond will benefit from this work as the project plans to develop new cooling systems for practical applications using a combination of sophisticated modelling/simulation investigations, experimental testing and design.

Using technological innovations, the project is aiming at reducing the wasted heat generated and removing the wasted heat more effectively from servers in datacentres. It can provide a major commercial opportunity in ICT infrastructures by reducing the energy demand and running cost. By creating an energy efficient low-carbon ICT infrastructure, it will help the UK and other developing countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa (where energy grids are unreliable) to become less reliant on energy grids (including fossil fuels) and less exposed to higher energy prices in the future.

Other interested stakeholders include policy makers, government offices and lobby organisations who have an interest in reduction of energy utilisation. As this project moves into a more applied stage and involves UK based companies, it can potentially lead to new business opportunities in the manufacturing, ICT and energy sectors. Further interest might involve stakeholders such as the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and Local Enterprise Partnerships.

The project is led by Extreme Low Energy (Ele) Ltd, who is a specialist supplier of low-energy, sustainable ICT infrastructure. The Ele/Lancaster partnership provides an ideal dissemination of the project research to relevant industry and academia, both nationally and internationally.

Publications

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Hales A (2019) Geometric optimisation of piezoelectric fan arrays for low energy cooling in International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

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Hales A (2019) Optimisation of low energy cooling through phase variation between adjacent piezoelectric fan blades in International Journal of Heat and Mass Transfer

 
Description This project was accomplished on 31 March 2018. In the course of the current project, our main goal was to investigate advanced cooling technologies for servers in data centres, by reducing the energy demand. The project was intended to achieve the following objectives:
(1) To systematically assess the feasibility of an alternative air moving system using piezoelectric actuators replacing conventional fans for DC based server cooling.
(2) To analyse the technology's potential in terms of cooling efficiency, costs and robustness.
(3) To develop a comprehensive commercialisation strategy based on the business model to be developed for the disruptive technology.
Currently all the research tasks are nearly accomplished. We have identified that piezoelectric actuators can be used in server cooling with a significant energy saving compared with traditional convection fans.
The objectives have been fully achieved. We have found that Geometric Optimisation plays a major part in the performance of the cooling system.
Exploitation Route This feasibility study has been focussed on developing new cooling systems for practical applications of server cooling using a combination of sophisticated modelling/simulation investigations, experimental testing and design. The technology on cooling by alternative air movers using piezoelectric actuators, combined with DC power solution for data centres, has been thoroughly assessed. The industrial partner is carrying out the next stages of this R&D task.
Sectors Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Environment,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology

 
Description The project is still on-going. Thus, it is still early for the project to deliver a substantial impact. Currently datacentres account for nearly 2% of world's total electricity usage, increased historically from 0.53% in 2000, 0.97% in 2005 and1.31% in 2010. Energy-efficient computing involves thermal, electrical, and energy management. In an average datacentre, cooling and electrical power delivery use about 50% of the total energy. In a broader sense, almost all types of IT equipment including distributed computers such as desktops have the same cooling requirements. The energy overhead of IT equipment such as computers is mainly associated with the mechanical cooling provided by fans (air-cooled systems), accounting for about 1/3 of the total electricity consumption. The energy consumption is becoming increasingly untenable for the IT sector. The development of alternative advanced cooling technologies (mostly developed from other technological areas than ICT) has created a sense of hope that future energy usage of computers can be reduced. In order for these new technologies to have a positive impact on reducing energy use of computers, it is of critical importance that the most suitable technologies are fully assessed and optimised. Using advanced modelling/simulation and laboratory testing, this project aims to investigate advanced cooling technologies, such as cooling by alternative air movers using piezoelectric actuators, in order to fully understand the feasibility of using them in next-generation ICT facilities. Outside of academia, industrial sectors such as the manufacturing and energy sectors both in the UK and beyond will benefit from this work as the project plans to develop new cooling systems for practical applications using a combination of sophisticated modelling/simulation investigations, experimental testing and design. Using technological innovations, the project is aiming at reducing the wasted heat generated and removing the wasted heat more effectively from servers in datacentres. It can provide a major commercial opportunity in ICT infrastructures by reducing the energy demand and running cost. By creating an energy efficient low-carbon ICT infrastructure, it will help the UK and other developing countries such as Sub-Saharan Africa (where energy grids are unreliable) to become less reliant on energy grids (including fossil fuels) and less exposed to higher energy prices in the future. Other interested stakeholders include policy makers, government offices and lobby organisations who have an interest in reduction of energy utilisation. As this project moves into a more applied stage and involves UK based companies, it can potentially lead to new business opportunities in the manufacturing, ICT and energy sectors. Further interest might involve stakeholders such as the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and Local Enterprise Partnerships.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Electronics,Energy,Manufacturing, including Industrial Biotechology
Impact Types Economic