Liquid Cooling: 2020 Thermal Trends at the Semi-Therm Workshop

23 January, 2020

At the end of 2019, we attended the annual Semi-Therm symposium. Always an interesting and engaging event, it brings together leading thermal professionals, engineers and experts — to exchange ideas and information on the latest innovations within the industry.

During the week-long forum, 6SigmaET took part in the Thermal Technologies Workshop. There were a wide variety of thought-provoking technologies discussed, from developments in quantum computing to micro-encapsulated phase change materials in electronics.

But, in terms of thermal management, one thing stood out above all else: the major role that immersion cooling and two-phase liquid cooling technologies are set to play in 2020.

Data Centers and Immersion Cooling

In brief, immersion cooling reduces temperatures by submerging components in a non-conductive liquid, drawing heat away efficiently and effectively. 

Of course, using liquid to cool electrical and computer equipment is nothing new. However, largely because of the rise of data centers over the past decade, the technology is starting to become more widely available.

Indeed, Google has recently introduced liquid cooling in its data centers, as the new TPU chips simply ran too hot to be cooled by air. As we’ve seen, chips are only going to become more powerful and generate increased amounts of heat in the future.

By implementing liquid cooling technologies in these data center environments, businesses see a number of benefits. By reducing the need for energy-intensive fans, power consumption can be decreased significantly. This has the added bonus of making data centers increasingly noise-free.

Immersion cooling also enables around double the server density to be installed in the same amount of space. And because they’re directly immersed in non-conductive fluid, servers are never in direct contact with the surrounding environment. 

This means they can be installed in places where conventional servers would struggle — such as in high temperature and humidity settings.

On-Server Solutions and Thermal Simulation

But the advantages of liquid temperature management are not limited to immersion cooling alone. Solutions at the server level, such as liquid and two-phase cooling using cold plate technology, are also going to be a major factor moving forward.

Substantially reducing energy consumption, localized liquid cooling at rack level is an efficient and cost-effective answer to the difficulties of heat management within data centers. 

But, just as with the vast majority of cooling solutions, thorough and accurate thermal simulation using CFD software is essential to ensure on-server systems live up to their full potential. 

We’re looking forward to seeing how the thermal landscape evolves throughout 2020, and if any of the other innovations on display at Semi-Therm make it to the forefront of the industry.

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Blog written by: Joseph Warner, Applications Engineer