The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (3M BIC) at the University of Huddersfield, has installed Iceotope proprietary liquid cooled servers at a Huddersfield campus.  The innovative idea can cut the energy consumption of the High Performance Computing (HPC) infrastructure and also heat the entire building through radiators.


The building will appreciate the upgrade ahead of what’s expected to be the “worst winter in decades”. The system doesn’t require fans, so the servers are also significantly quieter than their air-cooled counterparts and can be positioned directly where students can use them, instead of being housed in a dedicated server room.

Technology Director at the 3M BIC, Dr Michael Wilson said, “HPC is often isolated from everyday operations, tucked away in a little sound proof room, but that scenario is far from ideal…We’ve been able to locate powerful computing right next to our users, without detriment to their working procedures. I’m sure our tenants will get quite a kick knowing that the servers are even helping heat the building.”


Iceotope technology works by wrapping each server blade in a metal case that has coolant running through it.  This helps to avoid the costs and carbon emissions which are associated with the need to cool an entire data centre.  Traditionally, PC infrastructure consumes a lot of power and requires plenty of cooling. The Research and Development laboratories at 3M BIC are no exception. They run detailed mathematical modelling of molecular dynamics, mechanical engineering and physics, as well as supporting larger companies in the area.

Iceotope finished the redesign of the cooling system only recently in September, outfitting the servers with hardware that uses just 107W to cool 20KW worth of IT.  The Iceotope modules immerse the electronics in an inert Novec coolant, manufactured by 3M. A low-energy pump drives a secondary coolant circuit in which water removes the heat from these modules.  The coolant is reusable and fire-resistant and since it does not conduct electricity, it can come in direct contact with electronics.  The pioneering system reduces the cost of the cooling infrastructure as a whole as it does not require a computer suite air conditioning unit, humidity control or air purification systems.

Liquid Cooled Servers Heating The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre

The Iceotope design cuts down on utility bills for the facility, since the High Performance Computing cooling system has been connected to the building’s heating system and is dynamically heating the site via the local radiator system. “Servers can get incredibly warm and at a certain point, everything begins to melt, break or fail. It’s this hardware failure that is the problem, not the heat as such…While most servers will desperately try to remove and dump the heat using spinning fans, at Iceotope, we endeavoured to create a solution that was able to re-use the waste heat while keeping the electronics cool. It always seemed a strange scenario to me, using fans to cool a computer in the same room in which you’ll have the heaters on full blast. Thankfully, the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre no longer has to work like this,” explained Peter Hopton, CEO at Iceotope.

[Images via technologyreview & eventindustrynews]