ENERGY EFFICIENCY R&D

In the US, Villanova University’s Energy Smart Electronic Systems (ES2) last week received a US$1.1m grant for research and development of energy efficiency technologies.In a press statement, ES2 said the US National Science Foundation funding will be directed towards the implementation of a collaborative energy efficiency R&D project aimed at reducing energy consumption in data centers and other electronic systems.

The project will be carried out under NSF’s Industrial and University Cooperative Research Program (I/UCRC) providing sustained and funded partnership between industry, academia and government to accelerate the R&D of emerging technologies to build a workforce benefiting the US economy.

Under the project, ES2 is partnering with Binghamton University, Georgia Institute of Technology and University of Texas, Arlington.

ES2 will utilise Grid-connected Advanced Power Electronic Systems (GRAPES) at the University of Arkansas, the Power Systems Engineering Research Centre at Georgia Institute of Technology, and the Integrated Electronics Engineering Centre out of Binghamton University.

ES2 said the project will focus on developing hybrid AC/DC power delivery in data centres consuming more than 100 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Alfonso Ortega, Villanova’s ES2 site director, said: “Collaborative research drives success.”

The Foundation’s Pramod Khargonekar, assistant director, Directorate for Engineering, wrote: “The goal is to enable active I/UCRCs to leverage each other’s expertise, research results, resources and existing networks and partnerships to establish a cross-centre cluster that will tackle a cross-disciplinary, cross-sector portfolio of research projects that hold the potential to catalyse technology breakthroughs and advance national priorities.”

To date, 10% to 20% of the AC power used by data centres is lost during stepping down of power to fit the voltage required by the centres’ IT equipment chipsets.

By using DC power, ES2 believes data centres will increase reliability, reduce power consumption and allow renewable energy usage.

Energy efficiency projects in US data centres

The grant follows last week's US technology giant Microsoft testing of a self-contained data centre designed to operate underwater in an attempt to radically reduce the technology's energy bills.

The project aims to develop energy-intensive data centres which  operate under water, using currents or tides to generate electricity and the cold depths to provide natural cooling.

Commenting on the underwater location, Microsoft said that half of the world's population lives near large bodies of water and there a shift to accessing software hosted in the Internet cloud. The company said having data centers submerged nearby could save money and speed up access to information.

Microsoft plunges data centre in the Pacific

The pilot dubbed 'Project Natick' tested a prototype vessel on the ocean floor about a kilometre off the US Pacific Coast for approximately four months last year.

Microsoft Research NExT special projects leader Norm Whitaker said: “… in one day this thing was deployed, hooked up and running.”