Blockchain technologies have been making headlines again lately — the hot button issue: the amount of energy it takes to the power the data centers that mine them. Blockchain cryptocurrencies are mined by computers, often housed in data centers that solve mathematical equations and are rewarded with a blockchain token. The equations become increasingly more difficult and use increasingly more electricity to solve as additional tokens are mined. This energy usage has become staggeringly high: Bitcoin uses more electricity than entire countries including Sweden
, and Argentina
. Meanwhile Ethereum uses more than 28.3 TW hours of electricity per year, more than the country of Ireland
The backlash of crypto energy usage can be seen across industries. More than half the world’s bitcoin is mined in China, and the Chinese government has begun cracking down on the practice leading to a mass exodus of miners
. Elon Musk recently took down bitcoin as an option for purchasing Tesla’s vehicles due to its heavy reliance on fossil fuels for mining. Other industry leaders like Jack Dorsey with Square and Twitter have authored a memo
acknowledging the downfall of energy usage with crypto mining.
Still, Crypto mining is proving to be a catalyst in ushering in a greener era of critical infrastructures. While less proven, immersive cooling has the potential to revolutionize data centers — allowing for a 90% reduction of energy compared to traditional data centers. The technology works by submerging circuit boards in a special liquid that is dry to the touch so as not to damage circuitry. The liquid holds a much higher specific heat capacity than air which is traditionally used to cool data centers. 3M’s Novec liquid is one of the most popular immersive cooling fluids.
Given the direct correlation of energy cost and profit with cryptocurrency mining, the industry is beginning to prove itself as an ideal testing ground for improving the economies of scale and address any reliability concerns associated with implementing this new immersive cooling technology. Until recently, most immersive cooling projects at Corgan have been smaller in scale or academic studies. However, Corgan is beginning to see large scale immersive cooling projects emerge specifically in the cryptocurrency mining space. Increased adaptation of immersive cooling technologies has the potential to make the technology more common place which would result in the data center industry using a little as 10% of the energy and real estate that traditional data centers use.
Blockchain mining is revealing itself as a well-suited testing ground for large scale immersive cooling data center operations. Immersive cooling is a new technology, and current pricing can be prohibitive in the same way early photovoltaic cells were cost prohibitive until they became more commonplace. Ramping up demand of immersive cooling through blockchain mining increases the economies of scale of the special fluid and other accessories, allowing for the price to drop industry wide as larger facilities come online to produce it and competitors enter the market. Increased usage also results in increased trust in this new technology. Traditional data centers have multiple layers of redundancy because the data they store on the cloud is so critical – think financial records, backups of priceless memories, and important documents. Most large data center providers are so concerned with reliability of their infrastructure that they do not want to stray too far from what has been proven as the industry best practices and standard of reliability. Any new technologies are preferably proven elsewhere before being implemented. Having some down time on a cryptocurrency mining rig that operates for 90% the cost is not as critical as losing an important cloud document or family photograph on a social media platform.
The potential for Blockchain mining to open up doors into the mainstream data center space is tremendous.
- Energy usage by data centers could drop by as much as 90% with immersive cooling. This is especially important with large multi acre “hyperscale” data center campuses becoming the new normal.
- Data storage cost would decrease as the immersive cooling structures are significantly smaller and require less infrastructure and operating costs. The buildings would also no longer need the expensive air and liquid conveyance equipment and systems required for the operation of air cooling. This reduction in cost would be passed on to the consumer.
- Data Latency would decrease as data centers would take up less real estate and be able to be located closer to the urban areas where the data is being used. Locating these data centers closer to urban cores also allows for companies to be more competitive in hiring talent to operate their facilities.
We at Corgan are excited to see where this may take us.