The future of energy efficiency in data centres


Monday, 11 January, 2021



The future of energy efficiency in data centres

Researchers at Sweden’s Chalmers University of Technology have found that graphene-based heat pipes can help cool the electronics and power systems used in avionics, data centres and other power electronics applications.

“Heat pipes are one of the most efficient tools for this purpose, because of their high efficiency and unique ability to transfer heat over a large distance,” said Johan Liu, Professor of Electronics Production, at the Department of Microtechnology and Nanoscience at Chalmers.

The results, which also involved researchers in China and Italy, were recently published in the scientific open access journal Nano Select.

Electronics and data centres need to be efficiently cooled in order to work properly. Current heat pipe solutions utilise copper, aluminium and their alloys, which are relatively high density and offer limited heat transmission capacity, creating challenges when cooling power devices and data centres. The researchers believe graphene-enhanced pipes offer a viable alternative.

Large data centres are extremely energy intensive. The researchers suggest these applications are responsible for greater emissions in the aviation industry, making energy efficiency a key target. The paper outlines discoveries that could make a significant energy efficiency contribution to data centres and other applications.

Graphene enhanced heat pipes feature a specific thermal transfer coefficient that is around 3.5 times better than that of copper-based heat pipe. The new findings pave the way for the use of graphene-enhanced pipes in lightweight and large-capacity cooling applications.

The pipes are made of high thermal conductivity graphene assembled films assisted with carbon fibre wicker enhanced inner surfaces. The researchers tested pipes of 6 mm outer diameter and 150 mm length and uncovered advantage and potential for cooling of a variety of electronics and power systems, especially where low weight and high corrosion resistance are required. There is potential for further efficiency gains through the use of heat sinks and fans.

“The condenser section — the cold part of the graphene-enhanced heat pipe — can be substituted by a heat sink or a fan to make the cooling even more efficient when applied in a real case,” said Ya Liu, PhD Student at the Electronics Materials and Systems Laboratory at Chalmers.

The new study is based on a collaboration between researchers from Chalmers University of Technology, Fudan University, Shanghai University, China, SHT Smart High-Tech AB, Sweden and Marche Polytechnic University, Italy.

The full paper can be found in Nano Select, by clicking here.

Image credit: ©stock.adobe.com/au/vladimircaribb

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