University of Alabama in Huntsville Students’ Computer Cooling System Could Save Americans Billions

A stunning 97% of the 60 billion emails sent each day are spam, but avoiding viruses and malware is far from the only thing that operators of large-scale computer processors need to worry about.

That’s because data centers can often consume as much energy as a small town. On average, the amount of energy it takes to keep a data center within an optimal temperature range costs operators more than the actual data center equipment itself.

To help solve this problem, a team of researchers at the University of Alabama in Huntsville recently developed a computer processor cooling system that promises to save American consumers more than $6.3 billion annually in server cooling costs.

According to the university’s press release, the cooling system uses convection to circulate a cooling liquid through channels installed within the computer processor, and then transports the coolant to a heat sink that acts as an external radiator. The system uses 3M’s Fluorinert FC-72 liquid as a coolant; the liquid is both biologically inert and chemically stable, making it safe for the environment.

Until now, personal computers have been kept cool with fans — or, in data centers, with massive air conditioning systems.

In addition to saving consumers and data center operators countless billions in energy costs, this cooling system could help the computer server manufacturers themselves. If they were to adopt this system, they could save a whopping $540 million each year by cutting fans and related wiring from their material costs.

Dr. James E. Smith Jr., a chemical engineering professor emeritus at UAH who is currently working with graduate students to optimize the system before it hits the market, says such a cooling system could carry huge benefits if implemented on a global scale.

“If you can do this for the world, we can save a whole lot of pollution globally,” he says. “Think of what could be done in China alone.”