US Department of Energy has $42m to make datacenter cooling more efficient

Nice sentiment considering power-hungry components, but it's not a lot of cash in DC terms

The US Department of Energy is stumping up $42 million in funding for projects to reduce the amount of energy used for cooling in datacenters as part of the government's overarching goal of reaching net zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050.

This funding will come from the DoE's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), and will to seek to overcome technology barriers holding back the development of high-performance energy efficient cooling solutions for datacenters, it said in an official announcement.

With characteristic DoE corny abbreviation, this one is known as the Cooling Operations Optimized for Leaps in Energy, Reliable and Carbon Hyperefficiency for Information Processing Systems, or COOLERCHIPS.

According to the agency, datacenters in America now account for approximately 2 percent of total US electricity produced, a figure which is likely to increase. Meanwhile, up to 40 percent of this energy consumed by datacenters is used for cooling systems, the energy department claims.

To address this, the COOLERCHIPS program aims to develop highly efficient and reliable cooling systems that will enable a future class of efficient power-dense computational systems, datacenters, and modular systems.

This is vital, according to US Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, because high temperatures such as those experienced across the US this summer can also impact datacenters, and the vital infrastructure within needs to be kept within a certain temperature envelope to remain operational.

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"Creating solutions to cool datacenters efficiently and reduce the associated carbon emissions supports the technological breakthroughs needed to fight climate change and secure our clean energy future," she said in a statement.

COOLERCHIPS will prioritize four technical categories for funding opportunities. The first of these is efficient cooling solutions for next generation high power density servers, but funding will also go toward developing high density modular datacenters that can be operated anywhere efficiently.

The third category covers development of software and modeling tools to help design and optimize datacenter energy use, CO2 footprint, reliability, and cost, while the final category is for developing best practices for efficient evaluation and demonstration of technologies developed under the program.

ARPA-E will seek applications for access to funding via the ARPA-E eXCHANGE, where potential applicants can also find out more details about the program.

Still, the DoE's $42 million seems like a rather small amount to spend on advancing datacenter cooling technology, especially as one liquid cooling company alone, Green Revolution Cooling (GRC), received a $28 million investment all to itself earlier this year.

Datacenter cooling has become a hot topic recently, with many companies investigating liquid cooling technologies to keep systems operating as key components like CPUs and GPUs continue to get more powerful and consume more energy. ®

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