IBM developing technology for zero-emission data centers

IBM is developing technology that could potentially lead to zero-emission data centers, said an IBM researcher at the USENIX Large Installation Systems Administrator 2009 Conference, according to a report by eWeek.

Bruno Michel, manager of Advanced Thermal Packaging at IBM's Zurich Research Laboratory (, revealed that his team is developing new methods of lowering emissions and waste in data centers, including chip stacking and liquid cooling.

The high-performance liquid cooling lets data centers to function in coolant temperatures above the free cooling limit in any climate condition, and as a result, the facility does not need any chillers and allowing the thermal energy to be reused in cold climates, such as that in Zurich.

At IBM's Zurich lab, Michel's team successfully removed 85 percent of the heat load from high-performance compute nodes at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

The team compared the new process' energy and emission balance with a classical air-cooled data center, a data center that uses free cooling in a cold climate zone, and a data center that features chiller mediated energy reuse.

The innovative technology could be a crucial breakthrough for the data center industry, as energy consumption in data centers have doubled over the last four years, with half of these rising energy costs being spent on coolant.

Meanwhile, the demand for computing power will only continue to grow exponentially with drivers such as mobility and telecommunications, digital media, e-commerce, high-performance computing, real-time systems and compliance calling for greater compute cycles and performance.

IBM and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich are currently developing a first-ever, water-cooled supercomputer called Aquasar that will reuse excess heat for the school's buildings.

The technology is expected to reduce the carbon footprint of the facility by up to 85 percent and save up to 30 tons of carbon dioxide per year, compared to a similar system using today's cooling technologies.

Michel says the team hopes to fully develop the technology to produce zero-emission data centers within five years.

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