My Thoughts on Technology and Jamaica: UAH Graduate Students use 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 in Passive Cooling System for Noiseless Cooling Systems upgrade

Thursday, May 7, 2015

UAH Graduate Students use 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 in Passive Cooling System for Noiseless Cooling Systems upgrade

“When you look at the power transistors required for the smart grid, for example, this system could have application there, and there are other applications in that area, too. Wherever you want to make high power in a small area that is a potential application”

Chemical engineering professor emeritus Dr. James E. Smith Jr of the UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville) commenting on the use of 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid  in a Passive Cooling system for Desktop Computers

This Active Cooling system, so called because the water is being pumped through the closed loop closing system, makes as much noise as a regular computer. This is amplified when you have a lot of computers in once place, such as in a Data Center or Server Farm. Additionally, it uses more power, making running a Water Cooling system on your over clocked gaming rig quite expensive.

Enter Graduate students Cuong Nguyen and Xiaolin Wang work with Chemical engineering professor emeritus Dr. James E. Smith Jr of the UAH (University of Alabama in Huntsville)  who are working on a liquid Cooling system based on 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid instead of water as reported in the article “Processor Cooling innovation may eliminate computer fans and save billions”, published May 6, 2015, 2:21 PM PST by Michael Kassner, Tech Republic

Cuong Nguyen and Xiaolin Wang had received a $10,000 in 2014 UAH Charger Innovation Funds to do research on 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid as reported in the Press Release by the University of Alabama in Huntsville entitled “Computer Cooling system could save U.S. $6.3 billion in electricity a year”, published APR 27, 2015 by Jim Steele, University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Most of these systems are active Water Cooling systems that use a water circulator to cool the processor on contact using a copper heat exchanger to extract heat and then a fan to cool the water back down in a closed loop, a lot like a Radiator system in moist cars.

So can these Graduate students from University of Alabama in Huntsville revolutionize the Active Cooling system used by Gamers to over-clock their Desktop Computers?

3M's Fluorinert FC-72 used in Passive Cooling System – Active Water Cooling in Desktop Systems noiseless upgrade

Desktop Computers make a lot of noise when they are running due to the internal built in fan used for Cooling the Processor and other components. They also have problem handling complex graphics in video Games, a fact that I can personally attest to based on my experience with my Gaming rig in Milk River, Clarendon as per my Geezam blog article entitled “How to connect Xbox One controller to any Computer or Laptop”.

To improve performance of your computer during extreme gaming as well as to make the system a little quieter overall, many gamers in Milk River, Clarendon have opted to keep them cool with exotic liquid Cooling systems.

Cuong Nguyen and Xiaolin Wang Passive Cooling System also has another advantage that many people running Gaming Rigs will like; no noise or dust bunnies to clog up your computer, to quote Cuong Nguyen: “When we remove the Cooling fan, it saves material costs, but it also eliminates the noise, vibration and dust contamination of fan Cooling. When you remove the dust, you remove the chance that it can build up. Build up of dust can destroy the electronic components”.

But what is this Fluorinert FC-72 that the pair of graduate students are doing as part of their Master’s Program? And could some other less exotic Cooling liquid have been used?

UAH Graduate Students use 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 in Passive Cooling System – How Gaming Rigs and Data Centers can run quietly and efficiently

3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid has an incredibly high Heat capacity, vaporizing on absorbing heat yet remaining a liquid at Room Temperature.

Fluorinert FC-72 is an electronic Cooling liquid and electrical insulator made by 3M as described in the article “Computer Cooling system could save U. S. $6. 3 billion in electricity a year”, published April 27, 2015, Science Daily. Colorless, odorless and supposedly biologically inert and an electrical insulator, it's also non-flammable and has a boiling point of 56 degree Celsius (133 degrees Fahrenheit), just halfway to the boiling point of water.

Graduate students Cuong Nguyen and Xiaolin Wang work with the help of UAH chemical engineering professor emeritus Dr. James E. Smith Jr used in typical Cooling systems used in over-clocking computers.

But instead of using a conventional fan, they employed a Passive system with no pump to push the liquid around the closed loop. Instead the Cooling system works as follows to quote from the Tech Republic article:

1.         Heat from the computer processor vaporizes the Fluorinert liquid.
2.         The vapor being lighter moves upward to the heat exchanger.
3.         The FC-72 transfers its heat load to the exchanger, which in turn transfers the heat to the surrounding air.
4.         Removing heat causes the FC-72 to condense into a liquid that flows into the holding tank below the heat exchanger.
5.         From the holding tank, the liquid FC-72 travels to the processor where the cycle is repeated

Given that the acceptable range of processor operating temperature is 50-90 degrees Celsius, a Passive Cooling system works quite well for a Desktop Gaming Rig.

Cuong Nguyen, who compared the their Passive Cooling system using a modified Intel Pentium 4 and Core i3 processors using 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid as the coolant to a typical fan cooled computer for twelve (12) hours under no load and heavy load conditions for his chemical engineering master's thesis, said it worked quite well, quote: “Our system can absolutely work, and it can work for 12 hours in a stable condition”.

Data Centers might love this upgrade – Gaming Rig owners tinker with Ethanol-Water mixture

So will this herald the coming of faster, quieter cooled Desktop Computers? For companies that run massive Server farms, yes, albeit they may be reluctant to make the upgrade.

But if it can provide significant power savings and reduce vibrational noise, then this Passive Cooling System based on 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid may be scaled up for larger applications such as cooling Servers.

Still, to avoid the cost of using 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid, owners of Gaming Rigs like myself may opt to use a mixture of ethanol and water to achieve a liquid that has the same boiling point as 3M's Fluorinert FC-72 liquid but is non-flammable. After all, after I set it up, I won’t need to open it up again unless I’m doing an upgrade of the hardware.

I certainly hope so, as although it may not resurrect the flagging sales of desktop computers as noted in my blog article entitled “Gartner and IDC Forecast Tablets, PC fall, Smartphone rise - How Tablet's 3-Year Lifespan means Sub-US$199 Smartphones, Chrome OS to Dominate”, it would help my Desktop computer back home in Milk River, Clarendon, which plays Video Games well but is as noisy as hell.

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