[Beowulf] A Cooler Cloud: A Clever Conduit Cuts Data Centers? Cooling Needs by 90 Percent

Prentice Bisbal pbisbal at pppl.gov
Mon Jan 28 08:47:10 PST 2019

So I was thinking about this over the weekend (because I apparently have 
nothing better to do with my time), and I definitely think this is a 
non-starter due to the massive change in server hardware layout to 
accommodate this thing. Yes, blades, and twin form factor servers 
already required that, and they're common form factors, but those form 
factors were just a matter of shrinking or changing the layout of the 
motherboard but still look like "traditional" layouts to the untrained 
eye, and they were still designed with typical front-to-back air cooling 
in mind. I feel like re-arranging the layout of components to accomodate 
this thing is a just more of a change than the market will accept.

Just my 2 cents.


On 1/25/19 3:56 PM, Prentice Bisbal wrote:
> Eric,
> I was suspecting that might be the case, but the explanations in the 
> other articles were way too vague to be sure of that. The NextPlatform 
> provided much better pictures. If that's the case, this thing operates 
> like a direct-expansion (DX) refrigeration system, where the 
> refrigerant is air and does not change state from liquid to gas, like 
> a typical DX refrigeration system, and the induced-draft fan provides 
> the shaft work, and those tiny channels that allegedly line up the 
> molecules act as many tiny offices for the throttling process. Based 
> on the pictures in the Next Platform article, here is a crude drawing 
> of cross-section of one of these devices that I drew in Google Draw. 
> It should help you understand what's going inside this thing:
> https://docs.google.com/document/d/1UK94PxVlQtVSb2ns5TbCqHjPJ1vYSOmkGSeSorvHyaM/edit?usp=sharing
> Given this design, you can only have an induced-draft fan on the 
> outlet. A forced-draft fan on the inlet would compress the air, 
> heating it up and negating the throttling (or Joule-Thompson) effect 
> on the low-pressure side.
> At the end of the day, thermodynamics still says X amount of shaft 
> work has to be done to provide Y amount of cooling through this 
> process, so I'm still skeptical of it, especially at scale.
> And for those of you looking for something really boring to read 
> rather than work, here are the related patents. I haven't read them 
> myself.
> https://patents.google.com/patent/US8414847
> https://patents.google.com/patent/US8986627B2
> https://patents.google.com/patent/US10113774B2
> Prentice
> On 1/25/19 2:26 PM, Eric Moore wrote:
>> Actually, it looks like Joule-Thompson cooling to me (Especially 
>> given the "Joule Force" name). You've got the air intake (ambient), 
>> then an expansion nozzle, into a low-pressure region, which is 
>> created by the fan at the end. So the outlet velocity of the air (and 
>> thus it's kinetic energy) is higher than the inlet velocity, which 
>> would lower the internal energy, and thus the temperature. Instead 
>> the fins/nozzle/heatsink transfer heat to the expanding gas, which 
>> exits a little above ambient temperature. I imagine the drawback is 
>> you really need to get rid of that high velocity hot air, and can't 
>> recirculate it, or the kinetic energy would be converted back to 
>> thermal energy, and mess it all up. The descriptions do all involve 
>> the exhaust air being ducted to the outside. This article has the 
>> most technical detail: 
>> https://www.nextplatform.com/2018/12/04/the-leading-edge-of-air-cooled-servers-leads-to-the-edge/
>> On Fri, Jan 25, 2019 at 11:33 AM Prentice Bisbal via Beowulf 
>> <beowulf at beowulf.org <mailto:beowulf at beowulf.org>> wrote:
>>     You all know how much I like talking about heat transfer and
>>     server cooling, so I decided to do some research on this product:
>>     Here's their website:
>>     https://forcedphysics.com
>>     and here's their YouTube channel with 5 videos:
>>     https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClwWeahYGuNl0THWVz1Hyow/videos
>>     This is really nothing more than an air-cooled heatsink. I'm
>>     afraid I'm going to have to call BS on this technology for the
>>     following reasons:
>>     1. It still uses air as the primary cooling medium. I just don't
>>     think air has adequate thermal conductivity or thermal capacity
>>     to serve modern processor, no matter what you do to it.
>>     2. In the videos, they present highly idealized tests with no
>>     control to use for comparison. How do I know I wouldn't get the
>>     same results doing the same experiment but using a similar duct
>>     fashioned out of sheet metal.
>>     3. Using this technology means a complete redesign of your server
>>     hardware and possibly your racks.
>>     4. None of the information in the videos or on their website
>>     really explains how this technology works, and what really
>>     differentiates it from any other air-cooled heat sink. Most
>>     people with a good invention are usually excited to tell you how
>>     it works. Since they brag about 30 international patents for
>>     this, there's no need to try to protect a trade secret.
>>     5. This statement:
>>>     The fins work like teeth in a comb, neatly orienting air
>>>     molecules to point in the same direction and arranging them into
>>>     columns. 
>>     Based on my education, this statement seems to be completely
>>     devoid of science.
>>     This statement seems to defy the laws of physics. Last time I
>>     checked, unless an atom or molecule is at absolute zero, it has
>>     movement, whether it's spinning or vibrating, or both, so how can
>>     they get air molecules to line up all in neat little rows, where
>>     the molecules are all pointing the same way?
>>     This also implies very laminar flow.  As fluid velocity increases
>>     that the diameter of the channel decreases, the Reynolds Number
>>     increases. As the Reynold's number goes up, turbulence increases,
>>     so mathematically, I would expect this flow to be tubulent, and
>>     not laminar. From my classes on heat transfer, turbulent flow
>>     around the heat transfer surface increases heat transfer, so
>>     laminar flow in this case wouldn't be a good thing.
>>     Until they can provide better comparisons with real servers in
>>     real data center environments, I'm going to classify this as
>>     "snake oil"
>>     https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snake_oil
>>     Prentice
>>     On 1/24/19 3:54 PM, Chuck_Petras at selinc.com
>>     <mailto:Chuck_Petras at selinc.com> wrote:
>>>     Well, this is interesting.
>>>     "According to Forced Physics’ <https://forcedphysics.com/
>>>     [forcedphysics.com]
>>>     <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__forcedphysics.com_&d=DwMFAw&c=-_uRSsrpJskZgEkGwdW-sXvhn_FXVaEGsm0EI46qilk&r=fawF3TRTwCqlaBkoLcxYCr4F4NRwCc64hmEgi9rHPpE&m=zr6lAlVphGxOQTXSElww9hGpqb9IZPik0_MN2v8Fqjs&s=lb4Hi9X8NKIYWe_e1RU3Cw4gr9Uz_B7n5pnCNY0ss3U&e=>>
>>>     chief technology officer, David Binger, the company’s conductor
>>>     can help a typical data center eliminate its need for water or
>>>     refrigerants and shrink its 22-MW load by 7.72 MW, which
>>>     translates to an annual reduction of 67.6 million kWh. That data
>>>     center could also save a total of US $45 million a year on
>>>     infrastructure, operating, and energy costs with the new system,
>>>     according to Binger. “We are solving the problem that electrons
>>>     create,” he said."
>>>     A Cooler Cloud: A Clever Conduit Cuts Data Centers’ Cooling
>>>     Needs by 90 Percent
>>>     https://spectrum.ieee.org/energy/environment/a-cooler-cloud-a-clever-conduit-cuts-data-centers-cooling-needs-by-90-percent
>>>     [spectrum.ieee.org]
>>>     <https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=https-3A__spectrum.ieee.org_energy_environment_a-2Dcooler-2Dcloud-2Da-2Dclever-2Dconduit-2Dcuts-2Ddata-2Dcenters-2Dcooling-2Dneeds-2Dby-2D90-2Dpercent&d=DwMFAw&c=-_uRSsrpJskZgEkGwdW-sXvhn_FXVaEGsm0EI46qilk&r=fawF3TRTwCqlaBkoLcxYCr4F4NRwCc64hmEgi9rHPpE&m=zr6lAlVphGxOQTXSElww9hGpqb9IZPik0_MN2v8Fqjs&s=VuDTSuinKPMpF6NCztFZkSGOVo3LD7MLjroIj_sn0ao&e=>
>>>     Chuck Petras, PE**
>>>     Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc
>>>     Pullman, WA  99163  USA
>>>     http://www.selinc.com <http://www.selinc.com/>
>>>     SEL Synchrophasors - A New View of the Power System
>>>     <http://synchrophasor.selinc.com <http://synchrophasor.selinc.com/>>
>>>     Making Electric Power Safer, More Reliable, and More Economical (R)
>>>     ** Registered in Oregon.
>>>     _______________________________________________
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