Europe: The projects leading the research into data center cooling

Aug 24, 2021 | Posted by MadalineDunn

In the data center industry, there is an increasing emphasis placed on developing data center cooling innovation. With good reason, too, as research shows that a 1 MW data center that uses traditional cooling can guzzle 25 million litres of water each year, which is unsustainable. Moreover, cooling facilities use condensers, compressors, and evaporators, making up 40% of their total energy consumption. As a result, a number of research projects are looking into how to make data center cooling more efficient and less harmful.

Xudong Zhao, a professor of engineering at the UK's University of Hull, coordinates one of these projects. Speaking to Horizon, The EU Research and Innovation Magazine, he talked about the cooling demands of data centers: "You've got a lot of heat generated from the data centre that needs to be removed … continuously."

The DEW-COOL-4-CDC project, which Zhao is coordinating, first started back in 2017 and is working to create a CDC dew point cooling system. This technology, which is currently in its pilot stage, works by passing the hot, dry air extracted from data centers over water to evaporate the heat.

According to researchers, the air conditioning system, due for completion in December 2021, utilizes 60% and 90% less electricity than a standard cooling system.

Elsewhere, the EU-funded ECO-Qube project is also striving to find solutions for the industry's cooling issue. Coordinated by Çağatay Yilmaz, the project started in 2020 and is looking into how data centers can be integrated into residential spaces and offices, whereby excess heat would be used to generate electricity for day-to-day activities such as showering. 

This project, expected to finish in 2023, is also looking into how data centers can be cooled by keeping a closer eye on the way data centers servers function. Moreover, Yilmaz, also innovation manager of Lande Rack Cabinet, says that "spreading the load" between them will promote more efficient cooling.

As Baxtel recently covered, efforts are also being made by the likes of Microsoft, Green Mountain, Nautilus. There is great innovation ahead, and considering that freshwater accounts for only 1% of the world's water, alternative cooling methods must be developed and launched commercially as soon as possible.