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NREL Evaluates Aquarius Liquid-Cooled High-Performance Computing Technology at the ESIF

March 23, 2018

This month, the Aquila Group installed its fixed cold plate liquid-cooled Aquarius high-performance computing (HPC) system at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF), as part of a partnership with Sandia National Laboratories. NREL will assist in evaluating this system and study the benefits of Aquila’s fixed cold plate warm-water cooling technology.

Aquila and Sandia chose NREL’s HPC Data Center for the initial installation and evaluation because the data center is configured for liquid cooling, along with the required instrumentation to measure flow and temperature difference to facilitate testing. NREL's HPC Data Center is liquid cooled for energy efficiency, because water is able to absorb and remove much more heat energy than air per unit of volume. This allows us to still provide adequate cooling while using less energy running pumps than fans would require. It also affords the ability to use more economical cooling systems, such as evaporative cooling; the 75°F cooling water is made year round, with low-energy-use dry coolers and cooling towers avoiding the need for expensive chillers. Finally, the waste heat we capture is reused for other needs, like heating the ESIF building.

“We are excited to be working with NREL and Sandia National Laboratories, as these DOE labs provide a leadership position in innovative liquid cooling and other cutting-edge efficiency-driven data center technologies,” said Judy Beckes Talcott, President of Aquila, in an article on the InsideHPC website. “We feel their leadership will help shape the future of HPC and influence the modern data center designer towards adoption of liquid cooling. Our shared vision holds the promise of improving data center energy efficiency by as much as 50%.”

After evaluation at NREL, the Sandia-named “Yacumama” cluster deployed in Colorado will be returned to service at Sandia—results will be shared among partners and NREL will use these results to evaluate the technology for future deployment in the ESIF HPC Data Center.

Read more about the technology and watch a short video on the InsideHPC website, and learn more about NREL’s HPC Data Center features and capabilities.