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Electrical circuits encased in fluid may reshape data-center design


THURSDAY, MAY 30, 2024

Water and power increases for cooling no longer inevitable!

COOLING OFF — David Smith, front, and Dave Martinez, behind, work on a computer server submerged in liquid as part of testing at the High Performance Computing center at Sandia. The immersion system uses a nonconductive liquid coolant that enables 100% of the heat generated to be captured. The reflection of the computer demonstrates the high liquid level. 

(Photo by Craig Fritz)

Keeping electrical circuits dry is generally considered a vital safety measure, but at Sandia’s High Performance Computing center, technicians adjust live circuits submerged in liquid.

“It’s pretty cool — and a little unusual — to walk into a computing lab and see electrical hardware submerged in fluid,” Sandia engineer David Damm said.

Complete immersion of computer components appears to be the most effective way to cool them, said Dave Martinez, engineering program project lead for Sandia’s Infrastructure Computing Services. “We place whole computers — their power cables, everything — in a liquefied solution. We take an entire rack and drop it into fluid contained in big immersion tanks.”

He believes that this direct contact between a liquid coolant and electrified equipment “could reshape the future designs of data centers.”

Reshaping data-center architectures

COLD PLUNGE — David Smith makes network connections to a computer server submerged in liquid as part of testing at the high performance computing center at Sandia. (Video by Craig Fritz)

By submerging all parts of the computing servers in a liquid coolant that doesn’t conduct electricity, 100% of the generated heat can be captured, almost entirely eliminating the need for the power-hungry fans and chillers used in conventional cooling systems.

Dave estimates that this type of cooling system, using liquid approximately the viscosity of cooking oil, would cut energy consumption by 70%. Unlike water-chill systems that require evaporation to lower operating temperatures, no water is lost; the coolant gives up its heat to the open air, given the right temperature differential.

Sandia’s forward-thinking approach arises from projections that the increasing water and electrical power demands for cooling in high-performance computing eventually will exceed the resources of small towns and become an unsupportable burden.

To address this, Sandia is formally testing a commercial nonconductive liquid system from Barcelona-based company Submer Technologies throughout the summer. Early positive results led Dave to envision a reduction in the two big problem areas of power and water use that are expected to hinder the development of faster, more powerful machines.

Promising innovations and partnerships

According to the Submer website, their single-phase immersion cooling system uses a biodegradable, nontoxic, nonflammable and noncorrosive liquid. It boasts being 95% more efficient than traditional cooling technologies, while 1,400 times a better thermal conductor than air and eight times less electrically conductive.

TEMPERATURE DROP — Hoan Luu, left, and David Damm work on a computer server submerged in liquid. Save for the silver handles at the top, the entire computer server is submerged. (Photo by Craig Fritz)

Negotiating through Adacen Inc., a local Albuquerque data company, Dave convinced Submer to partner with Sandia. Submer would provide fluid and equipment and Sandia would provide its expertise in system cooling and testing to perform a thorough technical evaluation of the system. Meanwhile, Dave, who for 25 years has worked diligently to bring about the next stages of computer cooling, is happy to reduce Sandia’s costs for power and water and provide a stage for a potential revolution for the industry.

In partnership with Adacen, code is being written specifically for the new task by Hoonify Technologies, composed of five former Sandia researchers who have taken entrepreneurial leave from the Labs.

In 2020, Submer, in collaboration with Intel Corp., introduced the idea of a liquid coolant that would bathe all components of a computing system to provide even cooling and allow higher operating temperatures.

As a bonus, the warmer temperature of the returning liquid can offer some heat to adjacent buildings during winter months and can be used to heat labs and showers in the summer through heat-exchange processes.

Sandia will conduct comprehensive tests on this system, evaluating hardware reliability and infrastructure support cost and effort. A case study is expected to be released this fall to assess the pros and cons of the technology.

Meet Dave Martinez: Innovating energy-efficient data center solutions

Dave Martinez, engineering program project lead for Sandia’s Infrastructure Computing Services, envisions building the most energy-efficient data center in the world. This center would aim not only to reduce energy consumption but also to use waste heat for various purposes, including heating buildings and preheating lab water, he said. Dave leads Sandia’s involvement in COOLERCHIPS, a DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy initiative aimed at defining the future of liquid cooling in high-performance computing. Additionally, he plays a significant role in Energy Efficient High Performance Computing, a worldwide organization with 1,000 members, where he serves as the infrastructure lead.

Throughout his career, Dave has witnessed the evolution of computer cooling methods from liquid to air and back to liquid cooling. With a keen interest in the thermodynamics of computing systems, he has been actively involved in power and cooling solutions for nearly four decades. Notable contributions include assisting in the design of energy-efficient data centers, such as the one at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which currently boasts the world’s most energy-efficient data center with 80% heat recapture.

Dave’s dedication over the past 25 years has been pivotal in shaping the future of power and cooling solutions in computing, reflecting his commitment to advancing sustainable and efficient technologies in the field.


ADACEN is a premier data center partner, offering state-of-the-art infrastructure and services to support the deployment of advanced computing technologies and drive digital transformation.  ADACEN’s mission is to provide the ultimate backstop for data protection with more secure, higher performing and significantly more efficient solutions, completely redefining data resilience.

ADACEN parterns with companies like Hypertec, Intel and Submer and Hoonify to fully leverage its services and integration capabilities.

For more information, please visit  



Submer is an idea born in 2015 from two brilliant and original minds, Daniel Pope and Pol Valls, to make operating and constructing datacenters more sustainable and efficient. That idea still remains to this day, as the main driver of the Company:

"We enable next generation cooling and automation for data & energy-intense environments by integrating our pristine, highly-efficient & sustainable technologies. Solving the challenges of today and powering the use cases of the future."

Submer helps enable datacenters that make sense through products, platforms, APIs, processes and installations that will move hyperscalers, colocation and huge industries to new levels of efficiency and innovation. For more information, please visit  


Hypertec delivers cutting-edge technology products and solutions that propel industries forward. 

Hypertec believe challenges are opportunities waiting to be seized. This perspective fuels their commitment to high performance sustainable technology including immersion cooling for data centers. Their innovative approach serves as the cornerstone of our identity, driving them to take immediate action in solving real-life problems and setting industry benchmarks.

Hypertec is a rapidly growing global provider of innovative information technology solutions, committed to being a role model for sustainable operating practices within the industry. Hypertec strives for a balance between environmental, social, and economic focus, a high degree of transparency and strong engagement in our corporate story.

Hypertec believes that addressing climate change is imperative for ensuring the sustainability of the planet. Hypertec takes care to implement innovative and sustainable initiatives within their technologies, products, and they help their customers do the same. Hypertec also use these initiatives to support their employees and guarantee a safe and respectful workplace, as well as to regulate their social and environmental impact.

At Hypertec, they vow to improve our environmental footprint and help contribute to a more sustainable world.

For more information, please visit 


Intel is an industry leader in creating world-changing technology that enables global progress and enriches lives. Inspired by Moore’s Law, Intel continuously works to advance the design and manufacturing of semiconductors to help address our customers’ greatest challenges.  

For more information, please visit


ADACEN compliments its infrastructure with Hoonify Technologies, a leader in high performance super computing software, to accelerate computation through the power of parallel computing for customers needing higher precision and faster results for modeling and simulation, AI, and ML workloads.

For more information, please visit

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