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Good vibrations for cooling data centres

Glasgow-based Katrick Technologies hopes to revolutionise cooling power consumption in data centres with a vibrations-based heat-removal system.

As the data proliferates in our increasingly digitised world, the energy demands of data centres are rising. Nature magazine has predicted that by 2030, data centres will be responsible for more than 8,000TWh of consumption worldwide, much of it consumed by cooling.

Efforts have already been put into reducing the load, for example by locating data centres in cold climates (for “free” cooling) or even underwater, or by using AI to optimise air conditioning systems. Katrick Technologies has taken a different approach, creating a patented thermal vibrational bell (TVB) heat engine to maintain low temperatures.

The TVB consists of a chamber filled with bi-fluids with different densities and thermal properties that expand at different rates. A heat source entering the TVB’s chamber – a hot pipe attached to an inner coil/heating element – creates a dynamic movement between the fluids, converting thermal energy from waste heat into fluid vibrations.

An array of protruding internal and external fins in the TVB captures the fluid vibrations through a combination of effects. These include bubble velocity, variable expansion of fluids; divergent density change (due to fluid interaction creating hydrostatic instability); and convection currents through the interaction of the fluids with variable temperatures.

Energy captured by the fins is transferred into mechanical vibrations, with the resultant effect being an oscillation of fins to passively dissipate the unwanted heat. This motion enables the system to provide the required cool environment to keep data centres servers working properly.

According to the company, the passive system could reduce cooling power in a UK data centre by 70 per cent, and reduce overall energy costs by 25 per cent.

The firm has established a commercial partnership to install the prototype passive cooling technology at iomart’s Glasgow data centre. It will replace two onsite condensers.

The innovation is being presented at the COP26 Superpitch, slated for November 9 (UK time). Organised by sustainable investment firm Greenbackers, the event will showcase 26 investment-ready cleantech ventures considered capable of moving the needle on climate change. This will coincide with a half-day session at COP26 dedicated to exploring science and innovation that can limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C.

To read more about the COP26 Superpitch, click here.

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