[Beowulf] Servers Too Hot? Intel Recommends a Luxurious Oil Bath

Robert G. Brown rgb at phy.duke.edu
Tue Sep 4 06:16:10 PDT 2012

On Mon, 3 Sep 2012, Lux, Jim (337C) wrote:

> I'll bet they have to change it more often than that.  This isnt something
> like a pole transformer.

Absolutely. Think of what you can do with a big vat of hot oil handy in
the workspace.  Buffalo Wings.  French Fries.  Chicken.  Fish.  The
reason nobody does this is because OSHA prohibits it -- it is a huge
health hazard.  Not even Jolt Cola can keep you thin in a sedentary
profession with your own personal deep frier as close as your server
room.  Although you do have to change the oil pretty often, as otherwise
shrimp tails and bits of overcooked tempura crust gunk up the memory and
CPU.  Systems people were dying like pudgy little flies of advanced
cardiovascular disease before the practice of using computers to heat
deep fat was banned.

On a more serious note, one wonders why nobody has tried helium instead.
No, silly, not liquid helium, helium gas.  The reason they fill windows
with argon is that it has around 2/3 the thermal conductivity of air,
and hence is a better insulator.  This, in turn, is because it is more
massive -- conductivity is tightly tied to mass and hence the speed of
the molecules when they have kT sorts of energies.

Helium, OTOH, has six times the thermal conductivity of air, and is
relatively inexpensive.  The biggest downside I can think of is that it
requires a pretty good seal and thick walls to keep the slippery little
atoms from sliding right through to the outside, and of course the fact
that systems techs would always be hitting up the helium tanks so that
they could talk like Donald Duck.  And you'd still have to refrigerate
the outside of the systems units.  But all of these things are still
orders of magnitude easier than with oil, and even things like cooling
fans work fine in Helium.  Maybe there are other problems -- lower heat
capacity to match its higher conductivity -- but it seems like it is
worth an experiment or two...


Robert G. Brown	                       http://www.phy.duke.edu/~rgb/
Duke University Dept. of Physics, Box 90305
Durham, N.C. 27708-0305
Phone: 1-919-660-2567  Fax: 919-660-2525     email:rgb at phy.duke.edu

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