Intel submerges servers in oil for a year; results are successful

By on September 2, 2012
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Higher efficiency compared to air cooling.

Any company which runs a data center knows that in the long run it isn’t the initial cost of the servers, but the cost of running those servers that adds to the yearly bills. Maintaining large data servers requires a whole lot of cooling, because of the enormous amounts of heat given off.

Source: Intel

On a very small scale we know that a lot of enthusiast PC gamers use water-cooling to keep temperatures down on their highly overclocked desktop PCs. Taking this concept a step ahead, oil cooling has also been looked into for PC cooling. Indeed electric transformers have been oil cooled for decades. And while many companies have tried to dabble in oil-cooling for their data centers, Intel has been the first company to fully delve into the project.

A year back Intel began testing Green Revolution Cooling’s method of submerging servers into their GreenDEF dielectric coolant. Over the weekend when the servers were take out after the year long experiment, Intel has said that the results were highly successful. Not only did all the components work perfectly, the energy savings (compared to air cooling the servers) has been tremendous.

According to Mike Patterson, senior power and thermal architect at Intel, traditional air-cooling of data servers has a Power Usage Effectiveness rating of about 1.6, which basically means the cooling cost of the servers ads an extra 60% to the original running cost of the servers. With oil-cooling the PUE was merely 1.02 to 1.03. As soon as the servers were taken out of the oil, Intel sent them to their labs for testing, and they “came back with a thumbs up that a year in the oil bath had no ill effects on anything they can see,” Patterson told Gigaom.


Intel is, of course, thoroughly testing the feasibility of oil-cooling. However, if Intel adopts this radically new (for data centers) cooling technology, then others will sure follow suit.  “The first time yo uhear about it, you think, ‘Oh, come on, that’s a crazy idea’ … ” Patterson said. “You just have to get past the initial reaction. I think it’s an emotional response more than anything.


From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

  • Ayan Don

    Server Admins with unlimited free French Fries :)

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