Some things are treacherous when mixed, like water and electricity. So when advanced-computing experts at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) made the move over a decade ago to use water to cool central processing units in its data center, it is understandable why some folks instinctively thought it was a bad idea.
“Most people balked at the idea of having water anywhere near a computer,” said Aaron Andersen, NREL’s group manager for advanced computing operations. He understood why the computing industry had doubts. But because NREL is the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) laboratory dedicated to energy-efficiency research, NREL was uniquely positioned to challenge conventional energy-intensive mechanisms for cooling, like air conditioning.