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How does a data center-level thermal management system work?
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How does a data center-level thermal management system work?

September 09, 2022

 While there are several different types of precision air conditioning or thermal management systems designed to meet the unique needs of each application, all systems generally work in the same way. The device uses one or more units installed in the IT space to provide the optimal air temperature for the IT equipment's inlet fans, whether around the room perimeter, in a row, or on a rack or ceiling (if floor space is at a premium) . These internal units use refrigeration or rely on cold water or glycol based coolants to cool the air. They use fans and airflow to direct cool air to the right spot.


At the same time, the hot air produced by the equipment is collected and exhausted from the IT space. The cooling unit of the thermal management system removes heat in one of several ways:


  • By directing it to the chilled water plant of the building. Chilled water cooling systems, such as the innovative Coolnet Cybermaster Series, are a good option for large data centers that can use chilled water equipment. For smaller spaces or high-rise buildings where air cannot be excluded, compact perimeter cooling solutions or even precision ceiling-mounted cooling systems such as the chilled water version with small footprint Coolnet Cool-smart efficiently captures and sends heat to a building's chilled water plant through a common plumbing loop.

  • Say no to it by being outdoors. Air-cooled direct expansion systems pair an indoor computer room air conditioning (CRAC) unit with an outdoor heat rejection unit and use the outdoor ambient air to cool the refrigerant. These systems are very reliable because they do not rely on other building systems to cool the exhaust heat. However, each unit requires its own plumbing and outdoor cooling unit, which takes up valuable space.

  • By rejecting it into a warm building water cycle. Water-cooled direct expansion systems, such as Coolnet Cybermaster DX Series connect multiple indoor CRAC units to a warm building water circuit, usually a cooling tower system, with the refrigerant cooled by process water. Small to medium rooms in facilities where building water systems exist are ideal for this solution.

  • By connecting to an outdoor fluid cooler, such as a dry cooler. A glycol cooled direct expansion system connects multiple indoor CRAC units to a dry cooler circuit and a pumping system that circulates warm water glycol antifreeze to cool the refrigerant. Small to medium sized rooms can benefit from these types of systems, but must have enough roof space to accommodate the dry cooler and pump.

  • Direct cooling of equipment by using specialized liquids. Liquid cooling is emerging as an alternative to IT thermal management. If you've ever burned your fingers badly, you know that air (i.e. blowing on your fingers) is usually not enough to relieve the burn. You need to move your fingers in cold water to relieve stress. Breakthrough liquid cooling systems use liquid instead of air to cool IT equipment for better results. Cold liquid is circulated to cold plate heat exchangers embedded in IT equipment. This provides extremely efficient cooling because the cooling medium goes directly to the IT equipment rather than cooling the entire space. However, it requires dedicated IT equipment with built-in liquid/fluid heat exchangers. Liquid cooling is most practical for high-density or high-performance computing applications where the heat is most intense.

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