A*STAR and local SME develop energy-efficient cooling system

Photo by Cristiano Firmani

A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing (IHPC) and ERS Industries Pte Ltd, a Singapore-based data centre solutions company, have developed an energy-efficient cooling system, KoolLogix, which uses an innovative heat exchange and phase change approach that can reduce energy consumption at data centres by up to 50 per cent.

Using Computational Fluid Dynamics, IHPC accelerated and optimised KoolLogix cooling system’s product design and validated its performance.

A growing digital economy means the demand for data centres will increase, supported by emerging technologies in 5G, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). In Singapore, there are about 60 data centres accounting for about 7 per cent of the country’s total electricity consumption in 2020.

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South-east Asia will also continue to see significant investment into digital infrastructure and data centre development, with the region becoming one of the fastest-growing data centre hubs globally.

However, data centres are intensive users of water and electricity, and their cooling systems typically use an estimated 35 to 40 per cent of the total power required to run a data centre, according to a study by Digital Realty and Eco-Business.

In 2019, the Singapore government informed the industry of a temporary pause on the development of new data centres to ensure their growth in a sustainable manner and with reduced carbon footprint.

 Features of the innovative cooling system

Recognising these opportunities and the need for more effective cooling solutions, IHPC and ERS co-developed KoolLogix cooling system, a novel cooling solution using phase change physics that transforms the way to cool data centres.

Compared to conventional computer room air conditioning (CRAC) cooling systems, the KoolLogix cooling system provides targeted cooling to remove heat from servers directly. The system also recycles and redeploys the waste heat discharged by servers for refrigerant phase change cycle. Such novel designs create substantial energy savings and thus lower carbon emission.

The cooling system is also modular and scalable to address cooling requirements. This eliminates typical high overhead costs that come with CRAC systems such as raised flooring, row cooling equipment, booster fans, refrigerant pumps or compressors, and use of aisle containment systems.

Partnerships with public agencies and companies in the innovation ecosystem

As part of A*STAR’s talent secondment scheme for local enterprises called T-Up. Dr Li Hongying from IHPC was seconded to ERS Industries in 2019 where she developed an advanced computational fluid dynamics model for the KoolLogix cooling system. Dr Li was awarded the T-Up Emerging Talent Award at the SME Day 2020@SWITCH and is a winner of the Underwriters Laboratories ASEAN-US Science Prize for Women 2021.

Since 2014, ERS Industries has been participating in A*STAR’s Operation and Technology Road mapping (OTR) initiative to plan strategically for future business growth, from which the company developed a 20kW cooling system and commercialised it by 2019.

As part of its business expansion strategies for KoolLogix cooling system, ERS Industries spun off a new company called KoolLogix Pte Ltd. The cooling system has been implemented in data centres locally such as CDC, a facility operated out of a factory space leased from JTC. The CDC data centre is owned and operated by Media Access International, a tenant of JTC since 2009.

The Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE), a ratio that describes how efficiently a computer data centre uses energy, is 1.29. Prior to the KoolLogix installation, the PUE has been more than 3.0. These promising results support JTC’s sustainability drive and commitment in leveraging green practices in optimising energy and water usage and cutting down carbon emission.