Immersion cooling technology has existed for decades, but within the last several years, it has seen wider adoption in commercial applications. As chip density continues to rise and the amount of data generated continues to grow, computing and data center needs will likewise continue to increase globally.

As a result of increasing computing power and the amount of data generated, data center power use has gone from several hundred kilowatts just ten years ago to several hundred megawatts today, an over 1,000 times increase. This growth means more servers and more heat generated.  

And while 35% of the total energy bill in an air-cooled data center is used just for cooling, the industry is seeking a more efficient solution as tighter renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission goals are established. 

Companies that operate large data centers, such as Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook, are examples of likely adopters of immersion cooling. Still, anyone who operates a data center, accesses data in the cloud or at an on-site data center, or mines cryptocurrency is a possible end user. 

As data creation grows exponentially, there’s more demand for data and cryptocurrency mining centers using massive amounts of power. Data centers account for nearly 3% of the global electricity used and over 2% of total greenhouse gas emissions, as much as the carbon footprint generated by the entire airline industry.  

As these businesses look for ways to reduce their energy use and support corporate social responsibility goals, they turn to immersion cooling methods to replace conventional air-cooling systems. Beyond data centers, this technology is applicable for electric vehicle charging stations and other complex electronics. 

Large data centers are turning to immersion cooling to offset massive energy demands

Understanding Immersion Cooling 

The immersion cooling process transfers heat from electronics to the coolant by submerging electronic components within computing hardware in dielectric fluid, which then circulates to a heat exchange chamber. The cooled fluid cycles back to the electronics in a continuous process that greatly reduces energy consumption. 

This process does not damage the electronics because the dielectric fluid and electronic components work together by design. In fact, immersion cooling typically prolongs the life of electronic components by keeping them cooler and free from airborne contaminants like dust. This method greatly reduces energy use, extends the life of the equipment, supports higher chip densities, and lowers the overall operating cost. 

A Renewable Alternative 

Cargill has been a leader in the bioindustrial space for many years. Given its deep agriculture and technology resources, it has refined how to bring plant-based solutions to meet a variety of manufacturing and construction needs – from dielectric fluids to renewable asphalt, adhesives, coatings, and plasticizers. Cargill’s technology, R&D capabilities, supply chain access, and global scale enable the organization to bring these solutions to hundreds of industries worldwide.  

Immersion cooling is the latest application of its plant-based technology for customers looking to improve their operational processes and reduce their environmental impact. 

The Wayzata, Minnesota-based company’s newest bioindustrial product is NatureCool™ 2000. This offering is the first plant-based dielectric immersion cooling fluid on the market for use in data centers, cryptocurrency mining, and other advanced applications that allow for a more sustainable and efficient way to cool electronic systems. 

Made from more than 90% vegetable oil and combined with performance-enhancing additives, Cargill’s fluid allows for over 1,000 times more cooling capacity and up to 60% less energy usage than conventional air cooling. NatureCool takes the benefits of immersion cooling to another level by offering a high-performing plant-based solution, making the process even more sustainable. 

The fluid is CO2 neutral with a Global Warming Potential of zero, helping make applications adopting the fluid more sustainable. Plus, it has a 10% higher heat capacity than leading synthetic immersion cooling fluids, making it higher performing. It also provides a superior level of fire safety with a very high flash point of 325°C, and unlike synthetic fluids, it doesn’t self-ignite and flames out after removing the heat source. 

Computer processing equipment submerged with immersion cooling fluid

“Immersion cooling is the new frontier of technologies that allows for more efficient, higher performing systems that also help make the IT industry more sustainable,” shared Kurtis Miller, managing director of Cargill’s Bioindustrial business. “In just the last ten years, data center power usage has increased from several hundred kilowatts to several hundred megawatts, an over 1,000 times increase. As chip density continues to rise and the amount of data generated seems endless, we need to find more efficient and sustainable ways to operate these complex systems.” 

A Self-Contained Cooling and Heating Solution 

Immersion cooling, while still a relatively new technology, is quickly becoming the preferred method for cooling power-hungry electronic equipment as data generation and online activity continues to skyrocket. What’s more, immersion cooling serves as a source for heating buildings in colder climates without needing conventional electric or gas heat sources.   

An employee with Mindful Energy Solutions, Inc. monitors tailored immersion cooling systems at an agricultural customer site

Mindful Energy Solutions, Inc., based in Manitoba, Canada, is using NatureCool™ 2000 fluid in modular data mining tanks positioned at large farming, greenhouse, and industrial facilities near Winnipeg. The fluid provides a source to cool the data processing equipment, and the thermal energy stored in the fluid is then upcycled as an effective and affordable heat source for warming those facilities nine months out of the year. 

Data mining immersion cooling tanks positioned at a large ag operation in Manitoba provides an affordable, renewable heating source for their operations 

Mindful Energy is conducting its own cryptocurrency mining in these locations. It is currently working with prominent Canadian corporations on decentralizing data mining in the same manner to reduce energy costs and power outage risks for a more efficient and renewable solution.  

“We saw businesses with huge losses on both ends of the energy use spectrum. This ranged from inefficient processor cooling upfront to an inability to capture and reuse generated heat on the back end,” said Stephane Gauthier, partner and CEO of Mindful Energy Solutions, Inc. “Now, by utilizing the heat in the immersion cooling fluid, we’re seeing some customers cover 100% of their annual heating cost in facilities over 10,000 square feet, representing huge savings while being more sustainable.”