Portacool: media life expectancy and water quality
Evaporative media is a critical component of a data centre’s evaporative cooling system. If evaporative media becomes old, damaged, or heavily soiled, it can have a dramatic impact on your cooling system’s efficiency and effectiveness. Replacing ineffective evaporative media is therefore an essential aspect of the data centre maintenance cycle.
Portacool, the US’ leading evaporative cooling manufacturer, is based out of Center, a facility nestled among pine trees just 17 miles from Louisiana, on the eastern border of Texas. The company was founded 30 years ago, and has developed a reputation for some of the best evaporative cooling solutions on the market, servicing the data centre industry, as well as the agricultural, manufacturing, industrial, business, entertainment, sports, home, and hobby markets.
Kuul evaporative media is a self-cleaning, award winning cooling solution. However, Portacool warns that, even though Kuul evaporative media’s longevity exceeds that of many competing products, knowing when to replace your evaporative media is still essential. “When wet, the media can become caked in dust, calcium salts, and other organic materials. Extreme water pH levels can cause irreparable damage to the media and mechanical damage can inhibit adequate airflow,” says Portacool.
Due to varying environmental aspects like humidity, knowing the right time to replace your evaporative media can be challenging, so Portacool has developed a list of conditions that indicate that your evaporative media requires replacement.
Sagging or softened media
Evaporative media that has been damaged by extreme pH levels or harsh chemicals in the water will soften and often sag in the system frame, resulting in large gaps where warm air can impinge into the system. These gaps result in a dramatic loss of cooling efficiency.
Increased static pressure
When a serious buildup of dust, particulates, and organic materials occurs on and within the media, an increase of static pressure will be noted. While the air may still be flowing through the media, this static pressure increase puts a strain on other system components – such as fans, belts, and pulleys – and increases electrical consumption significantly.
If you notice holes, tattering or mechanical damage in and on your media, it will need to be replaced. These damaged areas could allow warm air into the system, reducing cooling efficiency.
Loss of cooling
Many factors can cause a reduction in total cooling performance as noted above. If a noticeable drop in total cooling is observed, it is possible that the evaporative media will need to be replaced.
Reduction in wind speed
As with the loss of total cooling performance, a reduction in media face velocity and system airspeed is a possible sign that evaporative media needs to be replaced. The system’s integrity needs to be checked for leaks and fan performance prior to changing the evaporative media.
By paying attention to these criteria, data centre operators can ensure that they take advantage of the full life cycle of Kuul evaporative media, without running the risk of their cooling systems losing effectiveness.
Liquid cooling market poised for growth
The data centre liquid cooling market is set for strong growth over the coming decade, as a series of high-profile trials by prominent hyperscalers and growing demand for greener, more efficient cooling drives adoption throughout the industry. A new report by Research and Markets puts the size of the liquid cooling industry in 2021 at just over $3.19bn globally. By 2026, that market is expected to exceed $7.2bn, exhibiting a CAGR of 14.64%.
Liquid cooling can trace its roots all the way back to the mid-1960’s, when IBM launched its first cooling system that used water instead of air. Chilled water was used to cool interboard heat exchangers to reduce the temperature rise across multiple stacks of boards populated with cards. The technology was, like many new innovations, somewhat expensive and unreliable; putting water and expensive electronics in close proximity to one another has always been seen as a somewhat risky business.
Things have come a long way since then, however, and it seems as though liquid cooling might finally be reaching maturity at a critical juncture in the data centre industry’s history, as skyrocketing demand for digital infrastructure collides with the non-negotiable need for more sustainable designs.
Research and Markets’ report lists three key factors as the key drivers behind this growth rate, which is expected to be more than 4% faster than the expansion of the overall data centre cooling industry during the 2021-2026 period.
Strategic collaboration with leading technical giants
Earlier this year, hyperscale cloud giant Microsoft announced that it had been playing around behind the scenes with a new type of liquid cooling solution from Bitfury spinout firm LiquidStack. We actually sat down with LiquidStack’s CEO, Joe Capes recently, and you can read the full interview in this month’s issue of Data Centre Magazine.
Microsoft’s interest in liquid cooling solutions apparently stems from its need to ensure its hyperscale facilities (which the company builds denser and runs hotter every year) continue to make progress in terms of efficiency.
“Air cooling is not enough,” said Christian Belady, distinguished engineer and vice president of Microsoft’s datacenter advanced development group in Redmond, Washington. “That’s what’s driving us to immersion cooling, where we can directly boil off the surfaces of the chip.”
Because heat transfer in liquids is orders of magnitude more efficient than air, Microsoft (and likely other hyperscalers looking to reap similar rewards) is expected to be a key driver of hyperscale adoption throughout the industry.
Bolstered production of liquid cooling systems
In response to growing interest and demand, liquid cooling companies are racing to globalise and scale up their offerings. A recent report from Markets and Markets identified more than 10 firms from across the world currently either diversifying into or directly targeting the liquid cooling sector of the data centre cooling industry: Asetek (Denmark), Rittal (Germany), Vertiv (US), Green Revolution Cooling (US), Midas Green Technologies (US), Allied Control (Hong Kong), Schneider Electric (France), Chilldyne (US), CoolIT Systems (Canada), Submer (Spain), Iceotope (UK), Fujitsu (Japan), Aspen Systems (US), DCX The Liquid Cooling Company (Poland), Ebullient (US), Aquila Group (US), ExaScaler (Japan), Cooler Master Co (China), Asperitas (Netherland), and Liqit.io (Ukraine).
Need to address the limitations associated with air-based cooling
Air cooling (such as hot-aisle-cold-aisle setups) remains the most widely-utilised solution for cooling data centres. However, as rack densities rise, and the climate crisis continues to make air-based free cooling less of a viable option in more and more places, liquid cooling could be the solution.
The growth of data centres at the edge is also a potential driver of liquid cooling adoption. Because edge data centres are built on much smaller footprints (commonly enough inside a shipping container), huge walls of fans are rarely efficient enough in terms of square-footage to support edge data centre needs, particularly with the growth of high performance computing (HPC) applications at the network edge.