Immersion cooling has been around for over a decade, but it’s coming back in vogue thanks to Bitcoin mining

Immersion cooling has been around for over a decade, but it’s coming back in vogue thanks to Bitcoin mining
Crypto companies ‘immersion cooling’ to lighten the power loadBI India
  • Crypto mining companies are looking at immersion cooling to help them drum not costs and also be more environment friendly.
  • Immersion cooling recycles a portion of the heat created by crypto mining rigs into power.
  • However, the technology is still in testing mode and there are pit falls to both success and failure.
Mining for Bitcoin is hot — not just because it's in vogue, but because it’s literally hot enough that there are people around the world using their mining rigs as an alternative to home heaters.

The more power they use, the hotter these rigs get. And, the hotter they get, the more power is needed to keep them cool. Thus, the cycle continues.

Crypto mining companies, like Riot Blockchain, and others are looking to break the loop with ‘immersion cooling’. They want to take specialised Bitcoin mining equipment — called application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) — and submerge them in cooling fluid to bring down costs while also giving their mining operations a boost.

Immersion cooling has been around for over a decade, but it’s coming back in vogue thanks to Bitcoin mining
Riot Blockchain's immesion cooling testsRiot Blockchain

It’s not only about cutting down the heat. immersion cooling also cuts down maintenance times since there’s less dirt clogging the machines, resulting in more efficient performance.

It looks like a fish tank with machines inside it. Sooner or later, all big miners will be doing large-scale immersion mining.

Nishant Sharma, the founder of mining consultancy firm BlocksBridge, told Bloomberg in a interview


Immersive cooling has been around for over a decade

Immersion cooling is not a ‘new’ idea. It’s been around since 2006 when Hardcore Computer pioneered the concept to make PC gaming more powerful.

Three years down the line Green Revolution Cooling (GRC) came up with the idea of ‘open bath’ immersion for the high-performance computing industry. And, a year later Midas Green Technologies founded the first-ever worldwide immersion cooling commercial data center.

Immersion cooling has been around for over a decade, but it’s coming back in vogue thanks to Bitcoin mining
Fujitsu's liquid immersion cooling system it says will usher in a “next generation of ultra-dense data centers.”Fujitsu

Fujitsu, Microsoft, Alibaba, Shell and all the big wig companies have been looking into it. Even with all this fanfare, immersion cooling didn’t get its fair due until crypto mining started to become mainstream in 2016. The profitability of conventional data centres is determined by a myriad of different factors. But, for cryptocurrency mining, the primary influence of profit is energy consumption — and, that’s where immersion cooling comes in, in a big way.

Immersive cooling uses heat to create more power

With immersion cooling, the total cost of ownership (TCO) gets drummed down since heat can be recycled for energy. The fluid absorbs the heat and recycles it to increase productivity.

According to Brian Roemmele, co-host of the Around the Coin podcast — who saw an immersed Bitcoin mining rig first hand — the cooling liquid reduces heat and noise by 95%. Around 40% of the heat is recaptured and used to power the mining rig.

This doesn’t mean crypto mining rigs are using water to cool off

Not only is immersion cooling a big deal for the companies that mine for crypto, but it’s also a get for companies that specialise in cooling technology. At the end of the day, water and electricity don’t mix. Water is both a conductor of electricity and corrosive. Any breach would mean that mining rigs would get fried.

And, that’s why the trick lies in cooling the right kind of liquid to get the job done. Instead of using ordinary water, companies prefer to use engineered fluids like 3M's Novec or a blend of different mineral oils such as GRC's GreenDEF. This allows for direct immersion of entire systems without the risk of damaging the machines.

But, this also means that crypto mining companies looking to employ immersion cooling at scale are dependent on a limited set of suppliers that have the technology. This leaves them susceptible to supply disruption and price fluctuations.

For instance, a crypto mining company Riot Blockchain, announced in October that it has plans to immerse 46,000 of its mining machines — which need around 200 megawatts of power to function — into cooling liquid.

Other companies that have attempted similar endeavours in the past have seen their projects run into substantial setbacks and cost overruns. According to TipRanks Risk Factors tool, if Riot is not able to complete the project on schedule and ends up devoting more resources to it, the anticipated benefits may get annuled.

On the flip side, if Riot Blockchain is successful, it could lead to other crypto mining companies jumping onto the bandwagon. This, in turn, would create a surge in demand, increasing costs and decreasing the cost effectiveness of the technology.

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