Immersion server cooling for green data centres

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Data centres consume enormous amounts of electricity, between 1.1-1.5% of total global electricity consumption¹, much of it simply to run chiller units and fans to cool the computing hardware. But they come at a cost.

To help alleviate the cost of server cooling and its impact on the environment, 3M is leading the liquid cooling revolution for data centres. Our line of 3M™ Novec™ Engineered Fluids offer properties that make them ideal for immersion cooling, both in single-phase and two-phase operation. The result? Energy use (and costs) can be slashed by up to 97%, shrinking data centre size and enabling optimal performance of server hardware — while helping reduce environmental impacts.

¹ Source:

Powered data servers submerged in bubbling Novec Engineered Fluids in a liquid immersion cooling application, brightened with neon lights.
Playing it cool.
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What is immersion cooling?

  • Under fluid Go Pro camera shot of bubbling data servers immersed in Novec Engineered Fluids in liquid immersion cooling application

    Data centre immersion cooling helps improve thermal design by directly immersing IT hardware in a non-conductive liquid. Heat generated by the electronic components is directly and efficiently transferred to the fluid, thereby reducing need for other active cooling components, such as interface materials, heat sinks and fans. These improvements increase energy efficiency and enable higher packaging densities.

    3M has worked with leaders in the data centre space to create fluids that are ideal for these applications and offer unique benefits such as a wider range of boiling points. Best of all, the technology is backed by more than 50 years of 3M’s material and application knowledge.

      • Reduces energy usage for server cooling, helping create a greener data centre
      • Involves fewer moving parts that require maintenance and replacement
      • Increases hardware density, since the liquid is more efficient at removing heat
      • Allows higher processor utilisation by maintaining temperatures below the thermal limit
      • IT equipment is easier to service, with electronics emerging clean and dry
      • Significantly reduces noise in server rooms
      • Helps protect IT equipment from environmental contaminants such as dust

A smart way to keep temperatures — and costs — down

Liquid immersion cooling using Novec engineered fluids contributes to a lower cost of ownership in many ways, adding up to one smart choice for a business. Direct liquid cooling improves efficiency and reduces costs at every phase of your data centre’s life, from design and construction, to operation, to maintenance, repair and replacement of hardware.

  • White icon on purple background of a US Dollar Sign, inside a bolt, inside a down arrow, representing lowering energy costs.
    Reduce energy costs by up to 97%

    The clearest advantage will be evident in your electric bill. The most efficient immersion cooling methods can help improve data centre energy efficiency (often the largest electricity cost for a data centre) by up to 97%.

  • White icon on purple background of arrow in center of a bullseye target to signify optimized performance
    Save space with 10X less room required

    The improved cooling capacity means you can position electronics closer together — so you can fit 10 times the compute density in a given space. This opens the possibilities of where you can put a data centre.

  • White icon on purple background of arrow in center of a bullseye target to signify optimized performance
    Optimise for greater performance

    With greater thermal efficiency, you can increase processing power and reduce latency beyond the limits of air cooling.

  • White icon on purple background of a shield, signifying protecting from equipment breakdown
    Mitigate equipment breakdown

    Liquid immersion cooling eliminates airborne contaminants and simplifies thermal design to reduce moving parts. This means you can run your electronics at full capacity with less wear and tear.

  • Large white wind turbines in a green field with a blue sky and white fluffy clouds.
    A sustainable choice for the environment

    Saving energy is not only good for the bottom line — it’s good for the earth. Less power used means less need to generate electricity, which in turn means less fuel used and fewer emissions. Smaller data centres save construction materials and maintenance. If your goal is a greener data centre, 3M Novec Engineered Fluids make these outcomes possible and at the same time feature:

    • Favourable environmental profile
    • Low global warming potential (GWP)
    • Zero ozone depletion potential (ODP)
  • Engineer performing a hot swap of a data server from inside an immersion cooling unit using 3M Novec Engineered Fluids
    Safe for worker exposure

    Building a data centre that uses immersion cooling doesn’t compromise safety for your operator. 3M designs all Novec engineered fluids to feature:

    • Overall wide margin of safety for workers
    • Low toxicity
    • Non-flammability

See how liquid cooling can revolutionise business, supercomputing and Bitcoin mining

Whatever your business, liquid immersion cooling can play a role in running a data centre more efficiently. As a pioneer and innovator in immersion cooling, 3M has helped launch successful immersion-cooled data centres.

Questions and answers to help you build a greener data centre

Server manufacturers, system integrators and data centre engineers all face similar challenges: design and assemble a data centre that answers core customer needs in terms of cost, performance and reliability. Immersion cooling using Novec engineered fluids can help you answer those, and other practical needs, without compromise.

  • How does immersion cooling work?

    Immersion cooling involves putting electronics directly in a non-conductive fluid, allowing heat to be transferred directly from components into the heat transfer fluid. In traditional cooling systems, heat must transfer through several levels of thermal interface materials, air, heat exchangers and working fluids. Immersion cooling simplifies thermal design and increases heat transfer efficiency.

  • What are benefits of Novec over mineral oil?

    Many factors should be evaluated when selecting a working fluid. 3M Novec Engineered Fluids have a number of significant advantages versus other classes of dielectric fluids, including mineral oil. In addition to being non-flammable and non-combustible, Novec fluids have the boiling points and thermal stability needed for two-phase immersion cooling operations. Servicing and maintenance are made easy, since the electronics come out of Novec fluid clean and dry.

  • Is fluid loss a problem in Novec-based immersion cooling systems?

    Immersion cooling systems are typically designed to be serviceable and hot-swappable, but are also designed with fluid containment in mind. By following 3M best practices and purchasing from a 3M authorised immersion cooling OEM, fluid losses can be held to inconsequential amounts.

  • How can I buy a Novec-based immersion cooling system?

    Vendors are already offering proprietary server and mechanical systems based upon this technology, with others in development.

Three ways to achieve one cool data centre

  • Two-phase immersion cooling

    Two-phase passive immersion cooling exponentially increases heat transfer efficiency from boiling and condensation of Novec engineered fluids. This simple approach features almost no moving parts.

    • Electronic components are submerged in a non-conductive liquid bath in an accessible, sealed enclosure
    • The generated heat boils fluid into a vapour and it rises to the top of the enclosure
    • The vapour condenses on the lid or a condensation coil and rains back into the bath to repeat the cycle
    • Since Novec engineered fluids are in direct contact with electronic components, they exceed the heat transfer efficiency of boiling water
  • Single-phase immersion cooling

    In single-phase immersion cooling the fluid has a higher boiling point and remains in its liquid phase throughout the process.

    • Electronic components are submerged in a non-conductive liquid bath in an accessible, sealed enclosure
    • The heat from the chip is transferred to the fluid
    • Pumps are often used to flow the heated fluid to a heat exchanger, where it is cooled and cycled back into the bath
    • 3M™ Fluorinert™ Electronic Liquids can also be used in this application
  • Indirect cooling: An immersion alternative

    The unique properties of 3M Novec Engineered Fluids can be applied in a variety of ways to solve customer challenges in thermal management. One such challenge is the complexity of applying direct-to-chip (D2C) water cooling, due to the risk of leaks and the difficulty of cooling a series of processors in the same circuit. Novec engineered fluids have many benefits in these applications, including temperature uniformity of all processors:

    • Heat transfer efficiency comparable to or better than water, in two-phase operation
    • Non-conductive working fluid, eliminating risk of damage from leaks
    • All processors in a circuit maintained at the same temperature regardless of the number of nodes

Learn more about liquid immersion cooling and 3M data centre solutions

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Contact us with questions about immersion cooling and Novec Engineered Fluids

Let 3M put our decades of experience in immersion cooling and data centres to work for you. Contact us with questions or requests that can help you realize your vision for your next data centre project. We can help with:

  • Application advice and best practices
  • Technical data and test results
  • Case studies and other materials
  • Assistance ordering Novec engineered fluids or choosing between Novec fluids and 3M Fluorinert Electronic Liquids
  • Information on immersion cooling equipment and service providers