A team of Microsoft researchers have developed undersea data centers that cool electronics more efficiently by transferring waste heat into the ocean using internal and external heat exchangers, according to IEEE Spectrum.
Dielectric liquids, phase-change materials, high-pressure helium gas and supercritical carbon dioxide were passed over in favor of a simple water radiator system contained within steel pods that can be tethered to or built directly on the sea floor.
Challenges to commercial deployment include minimizing biofouling to heat exchangers from barnacles and other marine sea life and developing remote and autonomous repair capabilities to deal with physical hardware failures.
In addition to providing environmental benefits by relying on ambient ocean temperatures rather than electrical air-cooling technologies, underwater server farms could also be more secure by virtue of their limited accessibility. While researchers have recently looked at shotcrete applications to shield data centers from physical and electromagnetic attacks, positioning data pods at the bottom of the ocean would isolate them from all but the most nefarious of attackers.
Ultimately, construction costs are likely to influence the adoption of underwater data centers, particularly since major land-based data center build-outs can cost billions of dollars. The ability to scale manufacturing of the server pods using modular construction techniques has Microsoft researchers forecasting a 90-day window from order to deployment.
According to Beige Market Intelligence, the global data center construction market is expected to hit $73 billion by 2022, and a JLL Data Center Outlook report released last year said employment in the sector would likewise be in perpetual growth mode through 2020.