IBM: Save the air conditioning, save the world

9 Apr 2008

Scientists at IBM reckon the cooling power of water is up to 4,000 times more efficient than the cold air from conditioning units which are standard on current computer systems, and furthermore that pursuing this direction will lead to a ‘zero emissions’ future for the company.

With this in mind, IBM has created the new Power 574 supercomputer, which uses 80pc less air-conditioning units than its counterparts yet reduces the energy consumption required to cool a data centre by 40pc.

This is because in place of air-conditioning units, there are copper plates placed right above the microprocessor and the cold water flowing through these copper plates draws heat away from its surface.

This system was developed from a desire to “scale up our performance, while staying within the given energy envelope in our environment” said Dr Hermann Lederer, head of application support at the Garching Computing Centre in Germany.

This innovative cooling system is not available commercially but will be used in the IBM supercomputers running high-end logistics needed for research across science and technology in labs and universities around the world.

IBM scientists are even looking to re-use hot water coming off a cooling system, so water is taken from the chip at its hottest and used for heating buildings or providing hot water.

At a further point in the future, the IBM lab is looking at taking the water closer to the microprocessor, not by letting it flow through copper plates but by bringing it inside the chip. This kind of technology could be a future solution for businesses looking to step up their ‘green’ policies.

By Marie Boran