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John O | October 2017

Interview outlines cooling solution for SKA telescope project

a recent interview conducted by biz news with aphiwe hotele, a member of the science data processor team at the square kilometre array (ska) telescope project in south africa, revealed that immersion cooling in oil is being used to keep the server equipment cool.


the ska telescope project is using immersion cooling for it servers.
(wikimedia commons)


hotele explained that the science data processor team was tasked with keeping the electronics cool for the project, which is going to look further into space than had been previously achieved. the large amounts of data that would need to be processed required quite a bit of computing power and air cooling would not suffice.


the scientists turned to immersion cooling, which submerged the electronics into oil to cool them. hotele developed an environmental monitoring system that keeps track of the temperature, humidity, and power in the immersed environment.


she explained, “i also built a predictor which is a system that predicts temperature in locations where we don’t have a temperature sensor because in this immersion cooled environment it’s sort of like liquid, but then we use mineral oil as opposed to water because water conducts heat, so it’s not good for the electronics, therefore we chose oil.”


according to hotele, by switching to immersion cooling, the ska project has saved up to 70 percent of the power that it was using to cool its servers.


“you can’t use your hard drive; you cannot dunk a hard drive in oil. it’s just not going to work, so you have to change it to a solid-state drive if you want to dunk it in oil, but with ska, what we’re working on with the science data processing, is also coming up with a completely new board that we can use and that we will dunk in oil,” hotele continued.


read the full transcript or listen to the interview with aphiwe hotele at https://www.biznews.com/good-hope-project/2017/09/22/aphiwe-hotele-ska-computer-servers-liquid-oil.

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