A rack of Liquid –cooled servers to help heat 60 campus buildings in Zurich

Physicists at the Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich working with IBM have created a liquid-cooled server system that can slash energy bills by as much as half while generating heat with little to no additional carbon emissions. Traditional servers are energy hogs and keeping them cool can eat up 80 per cent or more of some firms’ total energy costs. Bruno Michel, leader of the project and his team of eight scientists hope to change those figures with a robust server that can do approximately 10.26 trillion calculations a second. Micro channels filled with water keep the system functioning optimally while collecting heat that can be funneled for use elsewhere. Starting in December, ETH will use a rack of such servers to help heat 60 campus buildings. The liquid-cooled system pushes water through the capillaries in hermetically sealed channels that come within a few hundredths of a millimeter of hot components. The water siphons off about five degrees of heat with 85 per cent efficiency.

That heat, which pushes the water temperature from 60 to 65 degrees Celsius, can then be pumped into main heating systems. The liquid-cooled system will likely cost about ten to 30 per cent more than traditional servers but the energy savings would make the system pay for itself after less than two years. It cannot be retrofitted into older systems. The system should be available commercially soon, but Michel could not offer specifics due to confidentiality agreements. Pouring the heat siphoned off servers into those systems can help greatly reduce overall annual carbon-dioxide emissions, which carries perks in the form of tax credits. In one case study, Michel said the savings amounted to €416,000 (SFr630,000) a year or 30 per cent of the energy cost of the entire system.