Electric Vehicles

Immersion Cooling of EVs and… Data Centers
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Immersion Cooling of EVs and… Data Centers

By Boris Kamchev - Feb 10, 2022

Electric vehicles will trend toward batteries that generate higher levels of heat, industry pundits say, and therefore the industry will shift to more effective cooling technologies, like immersion cooling. But the lube marketers’ business could boom in another area besides EVs – data centers.

For EVs, the primary cooling technology in use today is indirect cooling. 

In this method, the coolant circulates through pipes or cold plates attached to batteries, while in immersion cooling the batteries are submerged in a liquid. Indirect cooling is the standard technology employed on most existing EVs, but immersion systems are being researched and developed and are used in some pilot units or in luxury hyper cars, according to OQ Chemicals Gmbh, a German chemicals and lubricants manufacturer.

When this technology is considered, it seems that lubricant suppliers have a much bigger playing field besides the EV sector – the fast-growing construction of data centers. A data center is a building, a dedicated space within a building or a group of buildings used to house computer systems and associated components, like servers or other telecommunications or storage systems.

The equipment – including power supply, central processing units, servers or storage systems – generates high heat and needs efficient cooling. Data center and co-location operators face a serious challenge in keeping facility cooling costs down.

The answer for this is the e-technology known as single-phase immersion cooling. Some lubricant manufacturers, like Fuchs Petrolub SE, based in Mannheim, Germany, are deep into this business and promoting new products.

Fuchs recently announced the launch of Renolin fluids for electronic component cooling, a line of synthetic single-phase immersion fluids for the data center industry.

“Renolin fluids can be used to cool components found in servers, power supplies and other data center equipment,” the company said in a recent news release. “These dielectric coolants are low-viscosity, insulative fluids that transfer heat efficiently without conducting electricity, making them safe and effective.”

In immersion cooling, the key fluid property is to be dielectric. Because the battery is in contact with the liquid, the coolant needs to have low to zero conductivity.

“We are excited to apply our thermal management fluid expertise, global production and support services to help reduce the COand environmental impact of the data center industry while supporting its tremendous growth,”said Paul Lindsay, vice president of industrial sales at Fuchs. 

The company, which has developed an extensive theoretical and practical approach on sustainability, said that on average, single phase cooling reduces a data center’s IT footprint by 70% when compared to traditional air cooling. 

“Reducing the number of air-cooling units required in a plant frees up available real estate for additional rack units,” Lindsay said. “Additionally, because immersion cooling significantly reduces the heat generated by the server, servers can be placed closer together, enabling high-density rack designs.”

Immersion cooling also reduces energy and water usage, cuts CO2 emissions and lowers operational costs of data centers.

The company said its coolants were designed with optimal heat conductivity, high flash point, negligible water content, strong dielectric properties, low odor and long-term stability. 

“Renolin FECC has already demonstrated proven success in data center segments, like cryptocurrency mining, where it has safely and efficiently transferred computer processor heat,” Lindsay said. Fuchs’ Renolin products are available in formulations made by mineral and synthetic base stocks.

Back to the automotive world. Immersion cooling for EVs is a nascent technology, and the most significant results so far have been achieved with ester base stocks, Jens Kubitschke, OQ business development manager, told ACI’s European Base Oils and Lubricants Conference held in November in Amsterdam.

“Fast charging is one of the several barriers for widespread adoption of EVs, and it can only be accomplished with immersion cooling,” Kubitschke said.

Esters are a group of chemical compounds derived from the reaction of carboxylic acids and alcohols or polyols.

Immersion cooling is the only technology that can enable ultrafast charging, “which means one stop at a charging station to last about 10 minutes,” he said.

Efficient thermal management of the batteries is a must and optimum temperature range should be between 15°C and 35°C, according to OQ. A full story on OQ’s predictions that immersion could become the main cooling technology in EVs is here

The company produces esters for use in other applications, like coatings, as well as for production of pharmaceuticals, solvents and ink products.