The firm argues this cuts power consumption in half, as you no longer need fans or the usual air conditioning in data centers.
Hopton first got the idea after seeing computer enthusiasts discuss the idea online. Oil does not affect the function of electronic components and offers a potentially useful cooling solution since it transports heats more efficiently than air.
Prototypes developed by the company demonstrate that placing server electronics in oil can dramatically reduce their electricity usage, by removing the need for traditional cooling systems.
In tests, server racks were immersed in tanks of oil normally used to keep machinery cool. A refrigeration unit positioned below was used to create convection currents that draw heat away from the electronics, which is much more energy efficient than using fans. "Using oil we could chill down to -20ºC, but between 0ºC and 10ºC looks to be best," says Hopton.
He suggests that the extra cost of using oil should be quickly paid back by the increased efficiency. Also, keeping components cooler should reduce the chances of failure, making the machines more reliable, Hopton says, and that more machines can be packed into the same amount of physical space.
Initial prototypes used motor oil until they realised this could corrode some of the components. The firm plans to have an oil-bath server prototype finished in the next few months, and plans to begin selling them early in 2008.