We all are using more and more data. This leads to more and more data centres, which together require more and more energy. This is gradually becoming a problem, but there is a lot of innovation on the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven to do something about it.
We may not always think about it, but our data usage costs energy. Whether it is a Skype meeting or a search on Google, it is all processed in data centres. Think of them as factories that keep the digital economy running. However, the computing power required for this requires a lot of electricity. And the same goes for the cooling systems, which keep the servers at the right temperature.
To give you an idea, data centres already consumed over 2 percent of all electricity in the world in 2015. Meanwhile, our data usage continues to grow exponentially. According to the Data Age 2025 report , we will create ten times as much data in five years’ time than in 2017. You see: this is irrevocably accompanied by even more energy consumption.
Stop building data centres
This is already starting to become a problem in some places. Municipalities of Amsterdam and Haarlemmermeer decided last year to temporarily stop the construction of new data centres, because they take up too much space and require more electricity than the network can supply. This does not mean that data centres are the culprits. If every household, company or organization had its own set of servers in the basement, the energy consumption of the data sector would be many times greater. By clustering servers in one location, we can organize energy consumption much more efficiently.
Data centres also do everything they can to keep electricity consumption under control. In the past four years, the energy consumption of the sector in the Netherlands has remained virtually unchanged, while it has doubled in size. A great achievement, but data traffic will continue to increase significantly in the coming years. And there is still work to be done in the field of energy saving and efficiency. On the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven, startup Incooling and NorthC Datacenters show what is possible in that area.
Incooling is working on an innovation to (as the name suggests) make the cooling process in data centers more sustainable. “For an average datacentre, cooling takes up about 40 percent of the energy bill,” said Helena Samodurova, CMO of the startup. “So, there is a lot to be gained there.” A conventional data center cools the entire space where servers are located and thus keeps them at the right temperature. That is actually a shame, says Samodurova: “It is the chips in the servers that provide heat. So it is much more efficient to just cool these. ”
The young startup therefore developed a cooling block that you can place on chips. In this way, only the heat sources of the servers are cooled. According to Samodurova, this makes data centre cooling up to 50 percent more energy efficient. The cooling block has a so-called phase change cooling system: a closed loop of tubes, through which a liquid coolant is pumped to the chip at high pressure. Due to the heat that the chip produces, this liquid evaporates and turns into gas, which is transferred away from the chip. The vapour extracts the excess heat to the other side of the loop where it’s cooled and finally condensed back into liquid.
Technology from CERN
The innovative technology is inspired by a comparable technology from research institute CERN, which uses it to cool the particle accelerator. “CERN has many innovative technologies in-house and decided to share them with third parties to give something back to society,” says Samodurova. “We saw their cooling system as an opportunity for data centres and developed a business case around it.”
Incooling is working very hard on bringing new innovations in the field. For example, last December, Incooling signed a collaboration partnership with Taiwanese Gigabyte, one of the world’s largest producers of servers and motherboards and will launch their product in June this year. Data centres are not necessarily the main Incooling’s customers, Samodurova emphasizes: “Our product is interesting at the beginning of the chain, so for the producers of servers.”
Meanwhile, Incooling continues to innovate. One of the agenda items is, for example, the reuse of heat. Samodurova: “We are currently investigating how we can best approach this.”
Most efficient way of cooling
Samodurova expects something similar on the other side of the chain, i.e. in the production of chips, motherboards and servers. Here too, there is a responsibility to curb the fast-growing energy consumption of the data sector. Therefore, in the future, Incooling hopes to launch an innovation that addresses the problem at source. “We are currently developing a cooling system that is already integrated into the chips, using microchannels at the size of a human hair,” she concludes. “That requires a complete overhaul of the chain, so it will take a few years anyway, but it is possible. And then you are really cooling efficiently. ”
However, Incooling is not doing this alone. High Tech Campus is also working on sustainable Data Centre solutions.
Read the original article here (in Dutch)