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Hot Server

31 Jan 2019
Progress: Concept

Heat semiconductors and pour water over them (Originally written April 2016)

Generally we try and keep computer chips cool as they run. Colder means better performance. This usually means air-conditioning data centres, which makes up a big chunk of the lecky bill.

Military grade chips are often rated as high as 125°C. Silicon is clearly capable of running at high temperatures, even if it means reduced performance.

Proposed is a computer data centre that is designed to operate at the boiling point of water under normal conditions. Phase-change heatpipes would connect each processor to some heavy-gauge water pipes that run along the racks.

Numerous benefits manifest. Since a bigger temperature difference means greater heat loss, the cooling system would be more efficient. Just-boiling water isn't really hot enough for efficient electrical energy recovery, but is perfect for supplying domestic hot water to nearby houses. The enormous latent heat for boiling water means it would take ages to boil off all of the water, and until then it would be impossible for the system to overheat. Lastly, data centres should be built adjacent to steam museums, which often cannot run their demonstrations on a daily basis because of the cost of heating their boilers. This should take off the edge.

The only disadvantage I can think of is the sysadmins would have to wear full-body cooling apparatus. But, these could be styled like Victorian diving suits, which would make them stylish and fun to wear.

This was originally intended as a serious proposal, but after a number of people misinterpreted the title as something to do with attractive restaurant staff, the idea went in a different direction...

Illustration of a server rack on fire

Your server might have been a hot chick. Then again it might have been a balding, middle-aged man - it was difficult to determine anything about who was inside that suit. There might have been eyes behind one of the misty round windows that dappled the cast iron helmet, perched on a genderless figure of plates, pipes and pressure seals. Silent, motionless and staring into the distance, it seemed to say Task Complete, Awaiting Instructions more than May I Take Your Order.

You turn your eyes back to the card in your hand. You ask.

"Is _everything_ on this menu boiled?"

Was that a shrug? A hunching of the shoulders as that brass and glass face stooped towards the floor, a sigh of disappointment in every creak of the jointed limbs. The figure began to turn and with a painful slowness stomped its way back to the Staff Only door, thudding footsteps shaking cutlery and echoed by the squelching of rubber hose around steel toe-capped boots.

Like a portal to another world, your server faded away into a billow of steam, leaving nothing but a faint muttering that this restaurant side business may have been a mistake. There were racks to attend to.

Photograph of an early diving suit with Bioshock vibes

May I take your order?