Since there are no currently active contests, we have switched Climate CoLab to read-only mode.
Learn more at
Skip navigation
Share via:


Cooling datacenters with air is ridiculous! LCS technology cuts datacenter carbon footprint in half - uses no fans, no water and cost less.



It takes 34 power plants, each capable of generating 500 megawatts of electricity, to power all the U.S. data centers in operation today. By 2020, another 17 similarly sized power plans will be needed to meet projected energy demands as economic activity becomes increasingly digital. 

This is ridiculous and unnecessary. Pushing cold air up from the floor requires massive fan power to overcome the laws of physics. Air cooling with fans also requires humidity control and exposes electronics to failure from oxidation and corrosion. Fans suck energy, waste space and are a huge failure point.

Liquid cooling is the answer, but the devil is in the details. LiquidCool Solutions offers a technology that cools electronics by total immersion in a dielectric fluid that significantly increases power density, eliminates datacenter fans and cuts the carbon footprint in half. It also eliminates mechanical refrigeration, rack fans, air handlers, high ceilings and raised floors, reducing the power to cool by 98% and total energy use by 40%. There is less electronic waste because components are preserved in the dielectric liquid and failures associated with electrostatic discharge, oxidation, corrosion or air pollution are eliminated. Liquid-cooling costs less than comparable air-cooled equipment.  There are scenarios where LCS-cooled computing racks replace building heating and hot water systems, making the energy used for computing essentially free.

In this project LCS proposes that MIT lead the way by gradually converting its IT portfolio to liquid cooling as new data processing equipment is purchased.  MIT will save money while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.  Students can be engaged to determine configurations and locations where LCS-cooled racks provide maximum benefit to MIT by confirming capital and operating cost savings, exploring opportunities to increase processor server energy density and exploring whether Prefabricated Modules have a role in MIT’s IT portfolio. 

What actions do you propose?

In fulfilling its mission, MIT seeks to co-create innovative solutions to complex challenges of a sustainable future, but this could take years when significant progress can be made right now with technologies currently available.

In this project LiquidCool Solutions proposes that MIT lead the way by retrofitting its existing datacenters with LCS-cooled servers, thereby gradually converting its IT portfolio to liquid cooling as new data processing equipment is required.  By replacing hardware on the normal refresh cycle, MIT will save money while significantly reducing its carbon footprint.  Server density will be increased and the energy that was needed for cooling can then be repurposed to increase compute capacity, which in turn postpones the need to construct a new data center. With no raised floors, ductwork or floor space dedicated to cooling apparatus, facility construction costs are also reduced.  

LCS also proposes engaging MIT students to determine configurations and locations where LCS-cooled racks can provide maximum benefit to MIT by confirming capital and operating cost savings, exploring opportunities to recycle server energy to heat water, and exploring whether Prefabricated Modules have a role in MIT’s IT portfolio.

Datacenter owners are spending billions to expand their digital processing footprint and tens of millions to appear environmentally responsible, while ignoring simple solutions available today.  Microsoft, for example, is toying with embedding gas-fired fuel cells in the racks to generate electricity.  Google is buying wind farms and laying high voltage underwater transmission lines.  It makes far more sense to reduce the amount of energy used by datacenters in the first place and create negawatts instead of consume megawatts.  This means eliminating mechanical refrigeration and fans.  This would not only save energy and reduce maintenance, but reduce capital cost too. 

It is not necessary to be an MIT physics major to know that air is an inefficient way to move heat. Air is an insulator, and often is used to keep heat from moving. Worse, most datacenters push cold air up through holes in the floor which goes against the principles of physics; hot air rises and cold air sinks.  This unnecessarily adds to the carbon footprint.

Liquid cooling is a much better solution. There have been impediments to widespread adoption of liquids for cooling electronics because technologies offered have been expensive, non-scalable, rigid in form factor and/or messy.  With the Liquid Submerged Server LiquidCool Solutions proved over the past two years that it is possible for a liquid cooling technology to be scalable and easy to maintain without creating a mess.  With the introduction of the Clamshell server at the Super Computing conference in Austin last November, LCS is able to deliver a package that does not cost more than air-cooled equipment.  Now it is possible to obtain all the operational and environmental benefits of liquid cooling and spend less.

LiquidCool Solutions has developed and owns an IP portfolio comprising 22 issued and 17 pending patents that centers on cooling electronics via total immersion in a dielectric fluid.  LCS technology increases power density and eliminates fans, thereby decoupling electronics from the environment. Using off-the-shelf components LCS combines a sealed enclosure and standard-size rack, a cost-effective approach that places special emphasis on scalability and ease of maintenance. 

LCS solved the maintenance problem often associated with liquid cooling. The swap out procedure for an IT device takes less than two minutes without any fluid loss. LCS has developed a rapid draining tool, so when access to a board for upgrades is desired an IT device can be removed from a rack, drained, opened, serviced, reassembled, refilled, and reinstalled within a 15-minute turnaround window.  Furthermore, entering fluid temperature can be as high as 110oF, so there will not be any cost to maintain chillers, direct expansion units, CRACs, CRAHs or air handlers because none of that equipment is needed.  There will be less maintenance in the racks too, because virtually all root causes of IT equipment failure are eliminated. 

In a datacenter five problems are addressed: capital expense, operating expense, reliability, water use and noise.  LCS cooling technology eliminates the need for mechanical refrigeration, rack fans and air handlers, and it is possible to accommodate 96 nodes in a 48U rack so the white space footprint is reduced more than 60%, all of which are CapEx drivers.  Power-to-cool can be reduced by 98% and total datacenter energy consumption up to 40%, and there is less equipment to maintain, significantly reducing OpEx.   As for reliability, sealed electronics result in a rugged device so equipment failures associated with electrostatic discharge, oxidation, corrosion and air pollution are eliminated.  No water is used for cooling and 90% of input energy can be recycled.  As for noise, there are no fans hence no noise.

By implementing a plan to convert campus computing to LCS technology will reduce MIT’s carbon footprint right now and show the world how datacenters should be built.

Thermal Efficiency

Thermal efficiency for total immersion is higher than any other technology because convective heat transfer from immersed electronic components is more efficient than air circulation.  LCS cools electronics by total immersion in a low-cost, eco-friendly dielectric fluid that never needs to be replaced. “Cool” liquid, which can be 110oF, is circulated directly to hottest components first.  Remaining components are cooled by bulk flow as the dielectric liquid exits the chassis.  This patented directed flow technology maximizes heat transfer from the hottest components, and is key to driving LCS cooling PUE to 1.02.  Thermal efficiency attributed to directed flow also makes it possible to recover 90% of server input energy at 125oF, a practical temperature for heating buildings or domestic hot water.  If there is no use for recycled energy, a dry cooler can be used for heat dissipation, which is more efficient than evaporative coolers or cooling towers.

Technical Risk

LCS offers a proven technology.  Servers of various configurations have been tested in the field and laboratory for the past seven years. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL), the National Renewable Energy Laboratory NREL) and Intel conducted independent tests. 


The coolant LCS uses is a synthetic oil with hindered phenol antioxident and viscosity control additives.  It is inexpensive, non-toxic, easy to handle and never needs to be replaced.  Similar fluids have been used by electric utilities to cool high-voltage transformers for 70 years. 

Capital Expense  

The LCS solution will remove heat far more efficiently at much lower cost.  The proprietary LCS-cooled server design essentially is a sandwich with a pan on the bottom, a stamping on the top, and the electronics in between. There are no moving parts in the chassis and all components are commercially available.  When a new board is released the old board is easily replaced by the new board, a one-hour substitution.

Operating Expense

Operating expense has three components - energy, maintenance and IT equipment reliability.

1.     Energy cost will be lower because total immersion offers the highest possible thermal efficiency and, since server inlet temperature can be as high as 110oF a dry cooler can be used for heat dissipation instead of an evaporative cooler or cooling tower. That means there will be no water consumption either.

2.     Maintenance expense will be lower because there is no water treatment equipment, and dry coolers are simpler to maintain than evaporative coolers and cooling towers. 

3.     The dielectric liquid LCS uses preserves electronics and enhances reliability. LCS recently disassembled a server that had been operating at 100% CPU load for three years and there was no degradation of the electronics or dielectric fluid.


LCS-cooled servers are connected to a manifold mounted on the rack by dripless quick disconnects, which enable a server swap-out to be completed in less than two minutes without any fluid loss. A tool is available so maintenance technicians can drain virtually all of the liquid from a server in 90 seconds; the same fluid is used to refill the chassis when the work is complete. Depending on what needs to be done on the board, the entire operation from removal to reinsertion in the rack can take as little as 15 minutes.


There are no moving parts or solder joints within the device enclosure, which eliminates a major source of server failure. Sealed enclosures eliminate the exposure of electronics to oxidation, corrosive gases, salt, dust and humidity. Because liquid submersion can maintain component operating temperatures 40oF lower than air cooling, LCS technology reduces temperature fluctuations and the thermal stress on components. The dielectric coolant used is compatible with virtually all electronic packages.

Power Density

If desired LCS technology supports exceptionally high rack power density, and dissipating heat from a 100-kilowatt 48U rack is no problem. LCS technology is modular at the server level, and it is simply a matter of matching dielectric liquid flow rate to the heat generated in each server. For example, the flow required to cool a 3kW server is in the one gallon per minute range. The flow required to dissipate 96kW from a 32-server rack is 32 gpm, and the corresponding manifold pipe size for the rack would be 2 inches.

Call to Action

Steve Jobs said: “It takes a lot of hard work to make something simple, to truly understand the underlying challenges and come up with elegant solutions.”  LiquidCool Solutions offers an elegant solution to the problem of how to cool datacenters.  It is a green technology that significantly cuts the carbon footprint while:

•       Reducing Capital Cost- Increases computational capacity while eliminating the need for mechanical refrig­er­ation, rack fans, air handlers, high ceilings, and raised floors

•       Reducing Operating Cost -  Reduces total power over air cooling by 40%.  Waste heat can be easily reclaimed for other uses. There are no chillers, DX units or fans to maintain

•       Conserving Water -  No water is used when the ambient dry bulb temperature is less than 110oF

•       Increasing Server Lifetime - Sealed system isolates electronics from the environment

•       Improving Reliability - Eliminates fans, isolation from environmental impurities, dampened thermal cycling and lower operating temperatures

•       Supporting High Density > 100kW per rack

•       Operating Silently - Fan noise and vibration are eliminated

MIT can show the world that a low carbon future can start now, and clean up its own act and save money at the same time.  Why would the Institute do anything else?