Microsoft is working on two-phase immersion cooling to avoid server overheating.

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Microsoft discovered in an earlier study that two-phase immersion cooling would minimise a server’s power consumption by up to 15%. The corporation also expects servers in the immersion tank to have a lower loss rate due to the lack of humidity and the corrosive effects of oxygen in the air.

Moore’s Law may have slowed in recent years, but the market for ever-more-powerful computer hardware has not. To keep up, hardware manufacturers are gradually the the amount of juice fed to processors, which has inevitably resulted in hotter chips.

Christian Belady, distinguished engineer and vice president of Microsoft’s data centre advanced development division, said, “Air cooling is inadequate.” As a result, the Redmond-based engineering behemoth is now studying the use of alternate cooling solutions to avoid overheating.

Microsoft is experimenting with two-phase immersion cooling at one of its data centres on the Columbia River’s eastern side. Server machinery is immersed in a non-conductive fluid from 3M that is designed to boil at 122 degrees Fahrenheit inside a specially constructed steel storage tank.

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When the hardware heats up, the fluid begins to boil. The rising vapour then makes contact with a cooled condenser in the tank’s cap, allowing the vapour to transform back into a liquid and rain down into the tank, resulting in a closed-loop cooling system.

The cooling coils in the lid of the tank are connected to a separate mechanism that transfers heat from the tank to an external cooler.

 

Microsoft expects to test the technology’s feasibility over the next few months. “This first move is about getting people familiar with the idea and demonstrating that we can run production workloads,” Belady explained.

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