IBM Dives Back Into Water Cooling Supercomputers To Save Energy

IBMToday, IBM delivered its first Aquasar supercomputer, which is cooled by water, to a Swiss technology institute. The system needs 40% less energy to run than air-cooled machines, and the waste heat it produces can be used to warm buildings.

The system works thanks to micro-channel liquid coolers that are attached directly to processors, one of the biggest culprits of computer heat generation. IBM says water is 4,000 times more efficient at removing heat than air. In the past, water was commonly used to cool mainframes and other large computing systems, but typically that water was kept at low temperatures.

Interestingly, the water used to cool the Aquasar system is warm, around 140 degrees F. This works because it’s still cool enough to capture enough heat from processors to keep them below their 185 degree F max. The water exits the system at about 149 degrees F, and can be used to heat buildings in which it is hosted.

IBM’s technology could help reduce energy costs to data centers, which use up to 50% of their energy consumption on air cooling systems to prevent processor over-heating. It could also reduce the initial costs of setting up a data center, allowing companies to pay to cool each machine as they’re added instead of needing to cool an entire room regardless of the number of machines in it.