Polar Data Center Breaks New Ground

Julius Neudorfer
In an "exclusive interview" with Dr. Hans Lindenbrook, CEO of startup Polar Data Exchange, Ltd, PDX today announced that it plans to build the world's first deep-well geothermal and solar-powered data centers using super-cooled computers. They are to be mirrored, geographically diverse sites, built as a redundant pair, one of each built at or near the North and South Poles in Arctica and Antarctica, respectively. 

If successful, these will be the first of their kind in ultra-efficient data centers. They were originally conceived in the late 1980s and funded by DARPA as part of the then-classified Romulus-Remus project to ensure a survivable command and control computer system. They migrated into a civilian effort after the end of the Cold War and were targeted to be a hyper-efficient computing project in order to develop an uninterruptible communications network that was independent of all fossil fuel energy sources. This current iteration was driven by the critical need to keep up with the ever-rising demand and dependency on the Internet for social networking and mobile applications.

The underlying technology seems simple on face value. A presentation by Dr. Lindenbrook and several PDX scientists, many of whom were formerly with NASA, demonstrated that the temperature differentials between the frozen icepack and a solar energy black body collector could consistently reach over 300�F during the day and even maintain 150�F during the night. This temperature difference will drive a combination of Peltier Thermo-Electric devices and a series of Sterling Cycle mechanical heat engines spinning generators to produce the energy needed to operate the computing systems of the data center.

Furthermore, in order to optimize the energy efficiency of the electrical system, it will have DC and AC power. The Peltier Thermo-Electric devices natively produce low-voltage DC current and it will be distributed and used as such. The mechanical generators will produce 415 Volt/3-phase power running at 400Hz. This was based on the fact that no utility power is required or involved, which would normally have limited the frequency to 60Hz. In fact, the first prototype system was built out of surplus aircraft electrical components.

Moreover, because of the ever-present, sub-zero temperatures of the icepack, so-called total 'free cooling' (air-side or water-side) is readily available. However, this system design goes much further. It will utilize super-cooled computing, wherein specially designed servers will operate at very close to minus 459�F or absolute 0� Kelvin. At that temperature, there are nearly no electrical losses, making them hyper-efficient. Moreover, because the servers will actually be submerged and operated in a bath of liquid nitrogen, the cooling system will require no fan energy. There will be no pumps either, since the nitrogen will be 'boiled' and will change state into a gas due to the heat gained from the computing equipment. It will then naturally rise and continuously circulate, with no extra energy required. In fact, the expanding nitrogen gas will drive a micro-turbine that will charge the kinetic energy storage flywheel in the UPS. The gas will then be cooled and condensed into a liquid by coils buried deep in the polar ice. This is based on a well-known, but infrequently used, thermodynamic process of reverse entropy.

The Bottom Line

The project represents a nearly perfect, zero-energy cooling system. In fact, the entire data center will have a virtually zero carbon foot print, with a projected and unbelievably low PUE of 0.02 (no, this is not a typo), since it requires only the cold existing in the polar icecaps and utilizes the same solar energy that would have fallen on the area naturally.

Unlike the unfulfilled hype of 'Cold Fusion,' this simple combination of existing technologies may provide enough computing power to solve the mysteries of the universe, as well as who will win the next 'Dancing Apprentices' show. So in case you are not using a Julian calendar, by now you should be aware that it is April Fool's Day here at Hot Aisle Insight.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 6, 2011 1:04 PM Anonymous Anonymous  says:
Good thing I read this to the very end...I almost forwarded it to a client. At what point did news sites start engaging in April Fool's pranks? I have noticed a proliferation of this of late. Please keep in mind a couple of things...what is posted on the Internet stays there virtually forever. April Fool's day was a week earlier and I had forgotten to have any expectations this would be a prank article. Second, I am somewhat new to the topic of data center technology. Other than the reference towards the beginning of this article that this fictional data center would be used for social networking, which did strike me as strange, I really thought it was for real and would have ended up looking quite idiotic to my new client, who IS well versed in data centers. Despite my scolding here, I'm not a humorless person, but there's a time and place for silly pranks. A business news site just doesn't seem to me like it should be one. Reply
Apr 6, 2011 2:04 PM Ian Bitterlin Ian Bitterlin  says:
I LOVED the techobabble and couldnt agree less with the previous commentator. We need more April Fools Days. The Germans have an alternative idea - see my blog on DCD Focus magazine published on 1st April, of course. Reply

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