Natural Refrigerants are Creating New Opportunities for Data Center Cooling

Betsy Ricker for Zondits, September 10, 2015. Image credit: Creative Commons

CO2-based refrigeration has been implemented with success at ice rinks and in refrigeration applications, and it is now moving into the data center cooling sector. A new project was recently implemented at Bell Canada’s Ottawa data center that utilizes CO2 rather than the more traditional refrigerants. Similar projects implemented in data centers in China have claimed energy savings of 25% or more over traditional cooling systems.

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According to a newly published market study from BSRIA, hyperscale data centres like those of Apple, Google, and others, are increasingly open to implementing new cooling technologies.
The study predicts that over the next five to 10 years, the use of traditional computer room air-conditioning (CRAC) units will drop as end users opt for other technologies like free cooling, liquid cooling and chilled water cooling.
Already in Germany, the “Blauer Engel” (Blue Angel) label criteria have been revised to require data centres with cooling demands higher than 50kW to use natural refrigerant-based cooling systems or systems that do not require refrigerant.
CO2 cuts energy use by 70%
Carbon dioxide is gaining favour as a cooling medium in IT applications for a number of reasons:
  • As opposed to water cooling, CO2 poses no danger to electrical equipment or cabling as it is electrically benign
  • CO2 has zero-ozone depleting potential combined with low toxicity
  • CO2 has seven times the cooling capacity of water per kilogram, reducing volume flows with smaller diameter distribution pipe work.
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