An overhead view of the open bath immersion cooling tank at 3M, which is filled with coolant fluid and uses a condenser system (at top) to recirculate fluid. (Photo: 3M)

Closer Look: 3M’s Boiling Liquid Cooling

Earlier this month 3M unveiled a proof-of-concept for open bath immersion (OBI), a passive two-phase cooling technique which uses a boiling liquid to remove heat from a surface and then condenses the liquid for reuse, all without a pump. Here’s a closer look at the demonstration project at 3M’s lab in Minneapolis, which submerged ICE-X supercomputing hardware from SGI running Intel chips.


The servers are immersed in 3M’s Novec, a non-conductive chemical with a very low boiling point, which easily condenses from gas back to liquid. (Photo: 3M)


The vapor generated by the boiling Novec rises to a condenser integrated into the tank and cooled by waters, and then condenses back to liquid for reuse. (Photo: 3M)


One of the big differences in immersion cooling involves maintenance. In this photo, a 3M technician wearing a rubber glove removes a server from, the pool of Novec coolant. (Photo: 3M)

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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  1. Why isn't 3M just working with a partner like Allied Control who already has a working solution, vs. announcing a proof of concept? If 3M wants to commercialize something it means they haven't figured it out yet. SGI or Intel either. Allied Control has a customer and HAS commercialized it for a specific application with broader applications that both SGI and Intel should be jumping all over in my opinion. Are they trying to compete with a company that they will depend on for sales? I have never seen that work out very well for anyone. It seems a bit like 3M announcing they will commercialize Post Its that Intel and SGI can use, when I have a three color stack on my desk already... The technology is fantastic, but if you are going to kill the sales of it by competing with your channel, it will end up the next Betamax.