IBM wants to use waste heat to cool data centres [VIDEO]

Thermal pump-driven energy recycling program could make the cooling of high-consumption data centres much more efficient.

July 28, 2015
by PLANT Staff

ZURICH — IBM is launching a new three-year research to figure out how it can convert waste heat generated from churning data centres into cool air, creating an energy recycling program that could make the centres far more efficient.

The project, known as Thrive, is meant to identify application scenarios for thermally driven heat pumps and cooling at an IBM research facility in Switzerland. It will also develop heat pump technology with minimal electricity requirements and analyze the impact of the technology on the energy landscape of Switzerland, including a sustainability assessment and benchmarking.

Thrive’s main goal will be to build a heat pump that’s powered by waste heat. Rather than using traditional heat pumps, an IBM team is looking at building what it’s coined an adsorption heat pump, which is a low-energy consumption system that employs a heat exchanger to utilize heat at up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit as an energy source instead of electricity.

The heat exchanger would take vapour from an evaporator system and compress it to release heat during the absorption process. A refrigerant, such as pure water, is then forced out of the heat exchanger by the driving heat from an external source.

IBM wrote in a release that “the hot vapour released as a result turns back into a liquid in the condenser, and the corresponding condensation heat is released into the heating cycle. The adsorption heat pump can also be used to heat and cool.”

For the system to work as designed, data centres would need to run adsorption heat exchangers running in parallel.

IBM believes the process could reduce electricity demand for heating or cooling by as much as 65% and the consumption of fossil fuels for heat by as much as 18% by 2040.

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