Future of Data Center Cooling

Started by richardBranson, Sep 16, 2022, 09:12 AM

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richardBransonTopic starter

If we install more computing resources per unit volume of the machine room, the whole complex will become more profitable and warmer.

 Cooling systems have been improved, but heat removal from electronic components still relies on fans and massive radiators. Isolating cold or hot corridors, advanced monitoring systems, and real-time air flow management represent reasonable alternatives, but their effectiveness has reached a technical limit. So, what is the solution?

Data processing centers consume a large amount of electricity, with around 63% being spent on web server operation and heat generation, 32% on cooling, and 10% on ensuring uninterrupted power supply. The performance of older data centers may be worse at 40/50/10.

The choice of cooling methods is limited by the technical conditions of the data center, so exotic solutions were out of the question. A more practical solution compatible with mass-produced web servers and site engineering infrastructure was required.

One experiment in that direction was the implementation of the Tercon two-phase heat sink system. This system reduces direct energy consumption for web server cooling by reducing air consumption, has higher equipment safety than liquid systems, can adapt to non-standard cooling solutions, supports domestic manufacturers, and requires minimal maintenance with its "put and forget" principle.

However, the Tercon system also has some disadvantages, particularly its lack of technology refinement. Nevertheless, it is a promising step towards more efficient heat removal from equipment, decreasing the rental cost per unit of computing power, and making web services more competitive.

The key element of the Tercon cooling system is contour heat pipes for heat transfer, cooling, and thermal stabilization. These are mounted to the processor and other heat-generating elements of the web server, while the Tercon condenser is attached to the heat exchange cooling bus. The tire is cooled with glycol from the data center air conditioning circuit, and there are no mechanical moving parts in the tubes, increasing the service life and stability of the cooling system.

The system uses grade A ammonia as a coolant, but solutions on ethanol, methanol, acetone, freons, and even water are also available. The system's "liquid-vapor" phase transition eliminates the need for compressors, which is its fundamental difference from liquid cooling. Steam moves through the steam pipeline under the influence of capillary pressure forces, entering the condensation zone where the reverse phase transition gradually occurs. A supercooled liquid then exits the condensation zone.

The liquid in the condensate pipeline moves isothermally, with pressure loss. It reaches the compensation cavity where it is heated to the saturation line temperature, and then impregnates the capillary structure where another phase transition occurs.

The Tercon cooling system based on contour heat pipes enables higher IT load power up to 25 kW and more web servers in racks through the rejection of bulky radiators and heat sinks outside the perimeter of the machine room. Unlike traditional heat pipes, CTTS provides heat transfer over a longer distance of up to 23 meters.

During the installation process, a specialist from the manufacturing company assisted us in assembling the Tercon cooling system. The installation process is divided into two stages: preparing the web server with the Terkon cooling system, and then putting it in a rack. It requires some skill and efficiency depends on the thermal pastes used and the fit of the evaporator.

While we did not remove the fans, the additional passive cooling system was installed to reduce the heating of electronic components and drastically reduce air consumption. However, it remains unclear whether it is possible to do without fans altogether as they help maintain direction of the air flow.

Connecting pipes for the cooling system occupy two lower units, becoming inaccessible for the installation of servers. The tire is located in the middle of the rack, but will be moved in future configurations for convenience.

The Tercon cooling system enables more efficient cooling and reduced energy consumption, increasing stability and reducing electricity consumption indicators.


I find the idea of using thermal tubes to remove heat from servers and then employing a liquid cooling circuit fascinating. However, such a concept requires a prepared infrastructure.

Regarding your implementation, have you considered comparing the performance and price of Contour Thermal Tubes (CTT) with conventional heat pipes?


What happens if there is a leak in the circuit? Are the monitoring costs reasonable? Can we rely on employees to detect potential leaks? I couldn't find any wiring or built-in ammonia pressure sensors on any of the radiators.

While the idea of using a liquid cooling circuit under the floor of a machine room may seem good, it raises concerns about the potential for toxic ammonia leaks in each web server. Additionally, moving servers on rails and remounting them can be complex and cumbersome.

Furthermore, the main heat sink being two 750 watt power supplies seems outdated and insufficient. And overall, the tested ammonia version appears to be an exotic and questionable choice.


One way to achieve a fanless server would be to place the cases vertically and change the direction of the radiator edge. It seems counterintuitive to pursue such an idea in a server room where hundreds of fans are already present.

However, it could make sense for personal use at home. For example, I assembled a home server with three raspberries, one "big" mother, and seven disks in a midi tower. By adding three slow-speed 140mm fans that blow through filters, the server functions as both an air purifier and a pressure-filtered intake fan. From a distance, it's almost silent except for the rustling of the air.