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Oil submersion optimization

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Thijs

New Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Location
Amsterdam
Hi all,


Let me introduce myself real quick: I'm Thijs. Live in Amsterdam and have built several computers. Nothing really special, just the standard stuff. It was all aimed at professional use. I currently work for Dell as a tech professional. So yeah... whatever ;)
I've had a fascination for full submersion, so that's why I've been thinking of a good design for it for long time. Several ideas have passed my mind, some useless, some a little better, but overall it's hard to test stuff without having the means to fabricate something yourself. So that's why I've opened this topic, I'm curious to see if others have interest in it and if together we can brainstorm on a good design. I'm not just interested in the theory, if we come up with a design that could work well, I actually plan on building it and running tests with it.

So now what I've come up with:

From the very start of computers we've been working with aircooled components. First we started with components directly giving their heat of to the air. After that we added sinks, fans, tubing, the lot. Then came watercooling, and now... well we're optimizing what we have. Radiators are added, more tubing, coolants, and let's be honest we've come quite a long way.
But ever since I first heard the smallest rumour about liquid submersion I've been intrigued. It's a hassle, a mess and whatnot, but it sounds like fairly new terrain, only recently confirmed by Intel that has said to be testing the idea.

So let's look past the obstacles and look for solutions. That's why I came here. I've been reading up about the idea for quite some time, and especially here there seems to be quite some knowledge. I'm looking to do something new, after several standard builts I want to see if it's possible to create something new that actually works better than what is out there. Let's not forget there was a time that watercooling sounded stupid too, and look at how many are now working with it.


On to what I have:
- Mobo orientation: I prefer to have the board mounted horizontally. Heat wants to go up, why fight this by placing your mobo horizontal. Apart from space issues there are no real objections to this. The argument that heat builts up in the top of your case is not relevant, because this is not a standard case I want to built.

- "Your case will leak". This seems to be one of the most common arguments I've been hearing. I feel this is not an issue as I want to built a case that functional, not specifically the best looking thing out there. That means automatically that I will step away from stuff like acrylic cases and such. They have zero functionality, other than looking nice that is. By making an aluminium bucket without any holes for ports or wiring, this problem should be solved. Aluminium doesn't dissolve in oil.

- You can't easily replace parts anymore. I think this is not relevant. Most only swap parts every so often, and it's not that big of a hassle. You are still able to swap stuff, it's just a little more slippery than it would be otherwise. Watercooling wasn't really easy in the beginning either.

- Oil eats away at your components. I'm still not sure on that. I've read multiple builts that have no problem at all with components falling apart, while at the same time I've read some minor problems with capacitors that swell and such. I have a feeling that it won't be such a problem.

- The biggest reason to step away from oil seems to be that it offers no real benefits, though it has been confirmed that it offers some great properties in a computer. It helps reduce hotspots in your computer, it's quiter than air cooling, helps to keep dust out of your computer, and you can increase the load on components more because it takes longer for the oil temprature to rise. As the oil replaces air, this is an advantage. It keeps your components cooler for a longer period of time.

This bring me to the main part of this topic: it seems to be hard to get the oil to lose the heat again. Because oil is "slow" it takes a while to heat up, but at the same time it takes time to lose the heat again too. The fact that all other builts I found were made of glass or acrylic is just bad design I think. Those materials are not made to transfer heat. They basically make sure the heat in the oil has nowhere to go, and causes your system to heat up. It takes a while, but it'll get hot. By using your case as the primary heatsink, and making sure you have good flow in your case you should be able to combine the advantages of the oil submersion with the advantages of other cooling methods. Basically removing the heat from the places where you don't want it, by spreading it over the oil, and then in turn spread spread that heat over the surrounding aluminium case. Simplified: Making an enormous heatsink for all your components, using the oil only as transport for the heat, instead of the actual coolant as most seem to be doing.

I've been busy drawing what I think would be a good design that would actually work. I'm missing details, also fans, but I think the idea is clear enough.

I'll explain it from the bottom up:

- Bottom part contains drives, but also the PSU. There is no need to also submerge that part. It get's warm, but it's not something that you easily overheat. You don't overclock them, so why warm up your oil with useless stuff. PSU sits at the bottom. It has feet that can be screwed in or out to place it stable and level.

- Middle: This is basically the outside part that counts. The aluminium bath is place inside this part. It helps direct airflow to the fins, but also creates a gap for the fans to suck air from that is then blown through the fins. I've designed it for four 200 mm fans. The space is there, and because of the size they can be set to slow speeds.

- This brings us to the core. This is an all aluminium core, with fins to create a larger surface for the air to pass by. But there are also fins on the inside to create a large surface area for the oil to pass by.

- There is an acrylic hood inside. This helps with flow. As the centre of the aluminium bath creates the heat, this rises to the top of the hood. Like a volcano this goes to the top. A fan should be placed here to help draw the heat up. As the warm oil gets pulled up it's then expelled at the top. At the same time cooler oil is drawn in from the bottom. For the warm oil to reach the bottom again, it needs to pass the outside edges of the aluminium where it is cooled. This is a constant circulation. With the addition of smaller fans, flow of cool oil can be directed towards specific components like CPU and GPU.

- Ofcourse there will have to be a cover. This can be acrylic, it's mainly a window to look inside and see if everything is ok. Making this an aluminium cover would have almost no thermal benefits.

nmgpwn.jpg

2ij46yw.jpg



So, a lot of text. I'm curious to see what you guys think. I hope it makes for an interesting discussion, and your inputs are more than welcome.

Have a good night.
 

Knufire

Senior Member
Joined
Feb 17, 2010
Location
Manassas, VA
I'm not 100% convinced that the aluminum case is going to cool the oil as fast as the CPU and GPU are dumping heat into it.
 

EarthDog

Gulper Nozzle Co-Owner
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Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
One of the best ideas to come from a terrible idea (submersion)! Subscribed!

That said, by using fans, like Puegetsound does, you are taking away one of the few benefits of using a submersion technique/medium like oil and that is QUIET. I also note that while that case is pretty damn cool, I think part of the 'awe' factor is actually SEEING the internals submerged in the liquid. And outside of the acrylic top and the volcano hole, I dont think you can see anything.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
One of the best ideas to come from a terrible idea (submersion)! Subscribed!

That said, by using fans, like Puegetsound does, you are taking away one of the few benefits of using a submersion technique/medium like oil and that is QUIET. I also note that while that case is pretty damn cool, I think part of the 'awe' factor is actually SEEING the internals submerged in the liquid. And outside of the acrylic top and the volcano hole, I dont think you can see anything.

+1 to that
i read the title and said ugh another one of these guys but this doesnt look like too bad of an idea.

to OP one thing to remember, no spinning hard drives inside there :p
 
OP
Thijs

Thijs

New Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Location
Amsterdam
Glad to see some critical but optimistical comments. To me functionality is more important than the awe factor. Like an engine it's the usefulness that makes it beautiful. If it turns out that the whole idea of submersion is just not adding true benefits (other than noise, I don't care about a little white noise), I might dump the idea. But I'm here with people that I feel are quite knowledgeable about what can and cannot be done with computer cooling, and I'm willing to explore the idea. Maybe there are people here that are able to help me make some calculations. I can calculate the entire area surface of the aluminium case, and I can calculate airflow. So I should be able to determine how much heat can be taken away from the case itself. I should also be able to find out how fast and how much heat the oil is able to transfer to the aluminium.

I was thinking of having two models made. A little simplified, but one acrylic box without airflow, and one aluminium with fins and airflow. Just a simpler, constant heatsource, like a soldering iron or something in the middle and to check how much of a heat difference there is. I could scale those numbers up to something like the Pudget system. That should give me at least somewhat of an idea of what the benefits are.
Thing is that none of the cases I've seen are aimed at cooling, they are all made just to look cool, and at the same time those cool looking windows leak, and isolate the warm oil.

The Pudget system is running with a radiator, I think that incorporating that radiator in to the case itself can make it work better. Damn I wish I could talk to the Intel guys about this ;)

Tnx for the comments
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
also have to keep the oil moving to keep it from having hot spots around the components.
 
OP
Thijs

Thijs

New Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Location
Amsterdam
+1 to that
i read the title and said ugh another one of these guys but this doesnt look like too bad of an idea.

to OP one thing to remember, no spinning hard drives inside there :p

SSD for boot and the rest of the drives, along with the optical and such in the bottom part of the case ;) Tnx for the reminder, especially useful if somebody finds this topic and forgets that you can't put the spinning drive in. Though I might just give that a try with an old drive I have lying around. Revolutionary if it works, after all this time people said it couldn't be done ;)
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
SSD for boot and the rest of the drives, along with the optical and such in the bottom part of the case ;) Tnx for the reminder, especially useful if somebody finds this topic and forgets that you can't put the spinning drive in. Though I might just give that a try with an old drive I have lying around. Revolutionary if it works, after all this time people said it couldn't be done ;)

spinning disks all have vent holes is why they say it cant be done :(
 
OP
Thijs

Thijs

New Member
Joined
Jan 3, 2013
Location
Amsterdam
also have to keep the oil moving to keep it from having hot spots around the components.

I have this covered. I want to pull out the oil on top of the acrylic volcano with a fan. The warm oil already wants to go up. The fan just helps it go up. I want a couple of smaller fans to pull it up from the colder bottom that also direct it to specific components (GPU and CPU mainly). There it warms up again, goes up, along the "cold" aluminum and down again where the cycle repeats.
 

EarthDog

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Dec 15, 2008
Location
Buckeyes!
How are you going to do that with a fan? Can they spin, without burning out in such a viscous fluid?
 

EarthDog

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Location
Buckeyes!
They're immersed in a coolant/lubricant. :)
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...let me rephrase it...

With the significantly increased resistance of the viscous fluid its submerged in, will the motor be able to handle it for an extended period of time? :thup:

Im not worried about temperatures, Im worried about the added stress on something that is meant to be spinning in AIR vs a viscous fluid with MUCH more resistance.
 
Last edited:

Black C5 Z06

Member
Joined
May 30, 2008
Location
Upstate, SC
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...let me rephrase it...

With the significantly increased resistance of the viscous fluid its submerged in, will the motor be able to handle it for an extended period of time? :thup:

Im not worried about temperatures, Im worried about the added stress on something that is meant to be spinning in AIR vs a viscous fluid with MUCH more resistance.
If I understand the mechanics right, the motor is simply an electrical circuit that creates a magnetic field. The fan rides on an oil/lubricant layer, and has magnetic pieces attached that are attracted/repelled at a constant rate around the magnetic field.

It's like putting a heavier weight oil in your car's engine. As long as it is thin enough to pass through the engine fairly well, it doesn't burn out any bearings or seals or anything. It simply robs you of a little horsepower.

As far as my brain can see, it's the same concept here. The same current is passing through the motor, only there's more resistance. But since there's no mechanical interaction (no linkages or anything) there's no more actual *stress* induced on any parts.
The fans aren't trying to get to a certain rpm. They are trying to get to a certain current draw at a specified voltage drop. As long as those two are met, the fan doesn't care what rpm it operates at.


Just my logic. Take it for what it's worth. I'm no Spock.
 

wagex

Chapstick Eating Premium Member
Joined
Jan 14, 2011
If I understand the mechanics right, the motor is simply an electrical circuit that creates a magnetic field. The fan rides on an oil/lubricant layer, and has magnetic pieces attached that are attracted/repelled at a constant rate around the magnetic field.

It's like putting a heavier weight oil in your car's engine. As long as it is thin enough to pass through the engine fairly well, it doesn't burn out any bearings or seals or anything. It simply robs you of a little horsepower.

As far as my brain can see, it's the same concept here. The same current is passing through the motor, only there's more resistance. But since there's no mechanical interaction (no linkages or anything) there's no more actual *stress* induced on any parts.
The fans aren't trying to get to a certain rpm. They are trying to get to a certain current draw at a specified voltage drop. As long as those two are met, the fan doesn't care what rpm it operates at.


Just my logic. Take it for what it's worth. I'm no Spock.

it would also be like taking your cars engine and trying to pull a fully loaded semi with it to the floor, might make it a while maybe even a few hundred miles, but somethings gonna burn up eventually.

in lamens terms its over working the motor. (i know engine motor different oh well)

but i can see either side of things it depends how the fans motor works if it is going to pull the same current either way then i guess it could be fine, but if it were trying to ramp up to a higher speed it would probably kill itself


all though fans to draw more amps are spin up which is normal for an electrical motor that isnt spinning at its normal speed so perhaps it will take more amperage to keep the fan spinning like that we need some one to test and see :D i do have an amp meter, though no oil to test a fan in, nor do i wanna get any of my fans in oil lol.
 

bmwbaxter

Joined
Jun 9, 2010
How are you going to do that with a fan? Can they spin, without burning out in such a viscous fluid?

I saw a video on Linus techtips where one of his friends was running one.

He used the stock intel hsf without it dying.
 

Black C5 Z06

Member
Joined
May 30, 2008
Location
Upstate, SC
it would also be like taking your cars engine and trying to pull a fully loaded semi with it to the floor, might make it a while maybe even a few hundred miles, but somethings gonna burn up eventually.

in lamens terms its over working the motor. (i know engine motor different oh well)

but i can see either side of things it depends how the fans motor works if it is going to pull the same current either way then i guess it could be fine, but if it were trying to ramp up to a higher speed it would probably kill itself


all though fans to draw more amps are spin up which is normal for an electrical motor that isnt spinning at its normal speed so perhaps it will take more amperage to keep the fan spinning like that we need some one to test and see :D i do have an amp meter, though no oil to test a fan in, nor do i wanna get any of my fans in oil lol.
It would be nothing like that at all. The engine (more or less) would not be damaged at all.
If using an automatic, the torque converter would be the first to go. It would burn up because you'd be spinning the engine at maximum speed while the transmission is barely moving, therefore heating up the fluid in the torque converter until the TC failed.
If using a manual, the half shafts, driveshaft, clutch, or transmission would fail, which ever had the lowest manufacturing specs and depending how you tried to drive it (slipping the clutch, dumping the clutch, using too high a gear, etc). Again, this is all because of mechanical interactions.
The engine, on the other hand, as long as it has sufficient water and oil cooling, will be perfectly fine.

But I was just trying to relate to the fan. I'm assuming the fan wants to get to a certain voltage drop and current draw. I can't imagine why it would try to "ramp up." It has no micro-controller to try and get it to a certain speed. Fans don't control their speed. Either your controller or the mobo does by regulating voltage (3 pin) or switching the circuit on or off (4 pin PWM). Current is steady, that's built into the hub circuitry.
I saw a video on Linus techtips where one of his friends was running one.

He used the stock intel hsf without it dying.

Yes, I already linked to both videos. One of Linus showing Slick's PC, and the other with Slick explaining his PC some.
 

Anonaru

Member
Joined
Oct 29, 2012
Riiiiiiiiiiiiight...let me rephrase it...

With the significantly increased resistance of the viscous fluid its submerged in, will the motor be able to handle it for an extended period of time? :thup:

Im not worried about temperatures, Im worried about the added stress on something that is meant to be spinning in AIR vs a viscous fluid with MUCH more resistance.

I have an old, abandoned oil submersion project in a fish tank in my basement-- Sealed it off so everything stayed in pretty well.

I had it on display in my shop for "OMFG" factor, and it ran XP 24/7 with a stock intel cooler for about 2 / 2.5 years, the stock cooler fan, 120mm case fan, and AGP GPU fan all were still going strong (Though they spin extremely slowly) after I finally retired the thing.

I'm told it burns them out faster than Air (Go figure), but it isn't an effect that isn't immediately noticable. HOWEVER, there are a lot of fans that simply will not spin when in oil, so that has to be kept in mind (Seems like lower and lower RPM fans are less likely to rotate at all)

Awesome idea here, though. Want to see more of it!
 

Lady Fitzgerald

Member
Joined
Aug 12, 2012
Oil immersion is feasible albeit not practical; power utilities have been using oil immersed transformers for decades. Some considerations would include:

1. The oil used: You would need to use an oil that won't retain water easily. Power company transformers use a special oil that doesn't absorb water as readily as most oils. Since the smallest quantity of that oil I’ve ever seen is in 55 GL drums (I used to work in the industry), you might have a bit of trouble finding it. A possible source might be your friendly neighborhood power company since you probably won’t need more than a gallon or two.

2. You will need to have a closed system to exclude contaminants, including moisture.

3. You won’t be able to use computer fans to circulate the oil. Oil, no matter how light (transformer oil is almost as light as kerosene), is still far more viscous than air. The increased resistance on the impellers will burn up a computer fan in nothing flat.

4. You will need to use the biggest, baddest heat sink you can find to cool the CPU since you will not be able to use fans to move oil through it. Same for cooling GPUs since their fans will be useless. An option might be to use water cooling for the CPU and GPUs independent of the oil bath.

5. Since you will need to depend on convection to establish circulation (oil pumps would be a royal pain to implement), you would probably be better off mounting the MOBO vertically so you can get more depth for your oil bath and to get oil movement over the board from convection. For the same reason, the big, bad CPU heat sink should be oriented for vertical circulation.

6. Current HDDs are vented and need air inside to operate (oil inside create too much drag on the platters, heads, etc.) so they will need to be mounted outside the oil bath. The proposed helium filled HDDs might be sealed well enough to withstand immersion. SSDs might also be able to withstand immersion.