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Biocomplexity of Virginia Tech

Background

Virginia Tech's Biocomplexity Institute was founded in 2000 to solve the world's most complex problems. The Institute's modeling and simulation research requires a state-of-the-art data center. ​

 

Virginia Tech was faced with the challenge of finding a solution that would respond to the additional heat load and limited space constraints in the data center. This data center has more than 200 teraflops, 8600 CPU cores and 45 TB of RAM computing power, which generates a significant amount of heat. These servers are cooled by three CRAC units and nine refrigerated door racks, all of which now use Hydromx® as a heat transfer fluid to remove heat from the space.

Virginia Tech was faced with the challenge of finding a solution that would respond

on the additional heat load and the limited space limitations in the data center.

The Hydromx liquid circuit is cooled most of the year by chilled campus water via a heat exchanger. During campus chilled water closure season, the Hydromx liquid loop removes heat through a roof-mounted dry cooler. The Biocomplexity Institute owns and operates the system; and is therefore closely involved in the analyzes behind optimizing the equipment via their building automation system.

Challenge
In 2017, the Biocomplexity Institute outgrew its data center and needed to convert a plant growth laboratory into a data center quickly and on budget. In order to expand and make the most of the renovation space, the Institute was challenged to find a solution that would respond to the additional heat load and space constraints. NASA kindly provided gently used 50kW high-density refrigeration door racks to solve the problem. However, these racks are designed to work with water, not glycol.

This posed a significant challenge due to the project's -20°F freeze protection requirement. The natural derate coefficient of glycol negatively affected the capacity of high-density racks. After receiving the recommendation from Oak Ridge National Laboratory and advice from the design and construction team, facility managers selected Hydromx for its combination of improved thermal performance compared to water and its superior freeze protection properties.

 
Solution
In December 2017, the Institute switched the data center's closed loop system from water to Hydromx.

“We selected Hydromx because of the reported stability and our performance expectations for the Motivaire rack doors,” said Joseph Hoeflein, director of facilities and research operations for Virginia Tech's Fralin Life Sciences Institute. “A local laboratory tests each loop every quarter. After start-up, the sock filters in the loops have remained consistently clean. The freezing point is between -23 and -30°F. The glycol concentration is between 45-48%. The molybdate concentration has slowly decreased from 200 to 120 ppm.”

Virginia Tech's servers are cooled by three CRAC units and nine cooled doors, all of which use Hydromx® as a heat transfer fluid to remove heat from the space.

Results

“We are very pleased with the performance of these cooling circuits and see no evidence of metal degradation,” says Hoeflein. Hydromx allowed the Institute to solve the problem and stay within budget by allowing it to use high-density equipment for the additional load without being penalized by the derating properties of glycol. The Institute's new data center is a model of efficiency. The Institute was able to design its new space to handle the increased load and expected growth, and reuse existing cooling equipment for the additional load.

 

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