IBM wants to cool data centers with their own waste heat

Those "do not eat" desiccate packets of silica gel that keep shoe boxes dry could soon help keep data centers cool. IBM has launched the THRIVE project with aims to do just that by creating a heat pump that runs on waste heat.

Normally heat pumps work by absorbing ambient heat which vaporizes refrigerant stored in an evaporator. That vaporized refrigerant then rises into an electrically run compressor which liquefies it. The heat is expelled and the refrigerant runs back down into the evaporator.

The THRIVE, however, uses an passive adsorption heat exchanger (which runs on heat at around 60 degrees C) in place of the condenser (which runs on electricity). This adsorption heat exchanger works kind of like a radiator. It pulls in massive amounts of vapor and compresses it within its multitude of fins. Silica gel, like that used in desiccate pouches, will be packed between these fins to improve their cooling efficiency.

"Through the extensive use of the adsorption heat pumps we are looking to develop in THRIVE, it could theoretically be possible to reduce the electricity demand for heating and cooling purposes by up to 65% and the consumption of fossil fuels for heat production by up to 18% by 2040." This would correspond to savings of around 1.8 million tons of CO2," Dr. Bruno Michel, one of the THRIVE project leaders at IBM Research - Zurich, said in a statement.

[Image Credit: Shutterstock / kubais]