Typically, the thought of mixing electronics and “goo” sends a shudder down the spine of any tech enthusiast. Those two things simply don’t go together. Unless you’re a startup called Submer, that is.
The Spanish company has a unique idea that addresses the massive environmental impact of data center servers. By dunking them in an eco-friendly goo and placing them inside specialized containers, Submer reduces energy consumption by 50 percent. The unconventional technique also cuts back on water waste by 99 percent and takes up 85 percent less space in a server room.
Today’s economy is powered by a digital heartbeat. Without data centers, the world would quickly spiral out of control. Unfortunately, it takes an enormous amount of power to run the servers that keep businesses operating across the globe.
Keeping them on isn’t even the worst of it. Maintaining climate-controlled environments that let the servers run efficiently is what drives up the environmental costs.
As companies look for new ways to reduce their carbon footprint, techniques like the one used by Submer could be a viable solution.
The idea originated four years ago when Pol Valls and Daniel Pope started brainstorming ways to make servers more efficient. They developed a material that was non-toxic, non-flammable, and biodegradable. That goo prototype eventually became what the servers are submerged in today.
It isn’t just any goo, though. The material is carefully engineered to be dielectric. In other words, electronics can safely be submerged in it without the risk of electrocution. Moreover, since the synthetic material forms a barrier against external moisture and air, it also keeps components safe from rust and corrosion.
Submer emphasizes the fact that its approach can be integrated into existing data center setups and built into new facilities. This makes it a realistic solution for companies who want to upgrade their efficiency without starting from scratch. Better yet, Submer’s system is compatible with any IT hardware.
The approach has been compelling enough for Submer to raise $12 million in new funding.
Though it sounds crazy, Submer isn’t the only company experimenting with the concept of cooling servers with external liquids. Microsoft recently unveiled data from an experiment off the coast of Scotland. It submerged an entire data center under the sea, harnessing the water’s naturally cold temperatures to keep its operation running efficiently.
While techniques like this, and the eco-friendly goo used by Submer, are effective, they aren’t always practical. Data centers can’t all be located in cool northern oceans. Nor can there be enough goo to house the entire operations of companies like Facebook and Google.
Perhaps a better solution is moving computing closer to the end user. With technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and a growing network of connected Internet of Things (IoT) devices, this is slowly becoming possible.
In the meantime, dunking servers in goo could help preserve the environment without forcing us to abandon our data centers.