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Power Hardware

Microturbines Power, Cool Servers Simultaneously 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the two-in-one dept.
jfruhlinger writes "The infrastructure of a large data center poses two main problems: You need to find a way to reliably power all those servers, and you need to figure out a way to deal with the heat those servers put off. Syracuse University and the University of Toledo are experimenting with one gadget to solve both problems. Small power units that run on natural gas, called microturbines, provide reliable DC power separate from the utility grid, and their heat output can paradoxically be harnessed to cool the servers and transmit the heat to other buildings on campus."
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Microturbines Power, Cool Servers Simultaneously

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  • by Maximum Prophet (716608) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:08PM (#38090506)
    Purdue has done this for years, but with macro turbines. The main physical plant provides power, chilled water and heat most of the University.
  • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:10PM (#38090516)

    Can they sell unused power back to the grid?

    • by dnwq (910646)
      In this server farm we obey the second law of thermodynamics!
    • by mosb1000 (710161)

      It'd be cheaper not to use it in the first place.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Why would they? A "micro" turbine is surely less efficient than whatever large-scale system the power company is using.

      In other words, the gas they use to make the electricity probably costs more than the power company will pay them for it. So it would be a net loss to sell back to the power company.

      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        For shaft power, the large scale turbine running at higher pressures and temperatures, with fancy intercooling and heat exchangers, is going to provide much higher efficiency than a small one. If the waste heat from the small scale turbines is used to run chillers or boilers, the total thermal efficiency of the whole system can be higher than a larger shaft-power-only turbine. Of course, there is nothing preventing the larger turbine from being hooked into a similar combined cycle system as well.
        • there is nothing preventing the larger turbine from being hooked into a similar combined cycle system as well.

          There is the economic fact that people who can make use of low-level waste heat don't live next to power plants.

          • by wagnerrp (1305589)
            In college, I lived three blocks from a natural gas fired tri-generation steam plant rated at 25MW electric, 70MW thermal, and 18000 tons of refrigeration. If you weren't paying attention, you wouldn't even know it was a power plant.
    • by MobyDisk (75490)

      The last 30 seconds of the video specifically mention that.

    • by sam0737 (648914)

      The TFV (video) says yes.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      Presumably yes. But seeing as it's a gas-powered turbine, it'd probably make more sense to just not generate more power than is needed.

  • by Immostlyharmless (1311531) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:13PM (#38090548)
    My gaming PC already sounds like a Hoover and now you're telling me the next evolution in cooling is to put a turbine in it? :o(
    • by Culture20 (968837)

      My gaming PC already sounds like a Hoover and now you're telling me the next evolution in cooling is to put a turbine in it? :o(

      Yeah, and it runs on natural gas, so there's that extra noise too. Stock up on frozen burritos.

    • Re:Awwww shit..... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by skids (119237) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:42PM (#38090896) Homepage

      No this is for server rooms. Something tells me most people won't want to run a line from their natgas system into their server.

      Speaking of server noise, though, I've often wondered if a laminar-friction impeller might at least not have that high-pitched whine. Basically this is a squat horn-shaped surface spun really fast. The air enters through the hole and gets accelerated by laminar friction out in all directions -- so it would have to be redirected with a hood to produce a lateral flow compatible with server fans, but then might be able to "entrain" like that ridiculous looking Coand-effect donut fan that Dyson sells. The main problem is the bearing has to fit around the big hole, so that's much more bearing adding to the cost of the unit. Though it might be possible with careful motor design to make the whole plate levitate rather than ride a bearing. The huge advantage, other than the lack of turbulence, would be there's no leading surface on which dust and debris can perch.

  • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:21PM (#38090622)

    Will it finally have meaning?

    Will future PCs suffer from turbine lag?

  • chp (Score:5, Informative)

    by thejaq (2495514) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @05:51PM (#38091020)
    This is combined heat and power many facilities do it. It is green in the sense that energy is conserved because waste heat is used rather than discarded. A data center seems to be a good opportunity. The turbine converts 1 CH4 unit to 0.3 electricity, while the absorption chiller will move about as much energy as it consumes (COP 1), which means the 0.7 waste heat off the turbine can easily move the 0.3 units of data center electricity out of the data center and 0.4 units of waste heat (+ 0.3 data center heat) can still be used for another purpose. It might be good for a data center operator, but from a systems perspective the better use for that CH4 is still in a combined cycle utility plant which can make 0.6 electricity, use the waste heat for some co-located industrial facility and make the datacenter run an electric AC (COP ~ 3).
  • by SEWilco (27983) on Thursday November 17, 2011 @06:49PM (#38091874) Journal

    heat output can paradoxically be harnessed to cool the servers

    Someone's never heard of LP gas-powered refrigerators [wikipedia.org].

  • by Anonymous Coward

    There's no "paradox" in using waste heat to generate chilled water. It's done all the time.

  • I do this at home. My computers are really cool. Oh wait. Natural GAS not natural grass. Nevermind.

  • Once we've got that finally cracked then things will get really interesting. Who knows, we might even have true AI within twenty years.
  • Windmills do not work that way! Goodnight!!
  • Turbines can do a lot of work. They can produce power and compressed air simultaneously. Would be interesting if that compressed air supply was run through one of these. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vortex_tube [wikipedia.org] We have a small one in the shop, a very simple device. Connecting it to our shop air, at 125psi, creates air at one end that will make your fingers go numb, and the other end outputs heat at about hair drier temperatures. The tube is about 6 inches long and 1 inch in diameter.

Your code should be more efficient!

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