UMD Selected for $3.5M ARPA-E COOLERCHIPS Award
The University of Maryland (UMD) has been selected to receive approximately $3.5 million in federal funds to help improve the efficiency of cooling systems used in data centers around the country, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced this week.
The award is part of a major DOE Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) endeavor aimed at reducing the environmental impact of data centers, which include the network servers and associated equipment at many organizations, as well as massive server systems that house the off-site storage system popularly known as the Cloud.
“DOE is funding projects that will ensure the continued operation of these facilities while reducing the associated carbon emissions to beat climate change and reach our clean energy future,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm as the program was announced Tuesday (April 8).
The digital age has fueled an escalating need for storage, which in turn eats up a rapidly growing share of global energy. According to DOE estimates, data centers already account for about 2% of total U.S. energy consumption, and about 40% of that amount is needed simply to keep the storage systems sufficiently cool. By 2030, data centers could consume as much as 8% of the world’s energy.
As part of the ARPA-E program, a UMD team led by mechanical engineering faculty members Patrick McCluskey (PI), Damena Agonafer, Michael Ohadi, and Peter Sandborn will develop an integrated decision support software tool for the design of next-generation data centers that includes reliability, thermal, and cost modeling.
“We’re setting out to achieve cross-optimization in a way that has never been done before. It will give you a cost estimate, a reliability estimate, a carbon footprint estimate, and an energy estimate, and then engineers can take that information and design a system that will meet the desired goals.”
The tool will complement work being done elsewhere in the program aimed at developing innovative new cooling systems that can maintain the same level of reliability but with a smaller environmental footprint and at lower cost.
As McCluskey explains, “we’re setting out to achieve cross-optimization in a way that has never been done before. It will give you a cost estimate, a reliability estimate, a carbon footprint estimate, and an energy estimate, and then engineers can take that information and design a system that will meet the desired goals.”
Team members will bring specific areas of expertise to the effort, with Agonafer and Ohadi focusing on thermal modeling. McCluskey on reliability modeling, and Sandborn on cost modeling. The team will be partnering with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory to conduct energy and climate footprint modeling. University of Arkansas and Trane Corporation will also be collaborating on the modeling and optimization efforts.
In addition to spearheading the modeling component of the ARPA-E program, the UMD faculty members are also part of other program teams that will focus on specific thermal solutions, including the possibility of repurposing the heat produced by IT systems so that it can be used to heat buildings.
UMD is one of seven universities tapped for the $40m program, dubbed Cooling Operations Optimized for Leaps in Energy, Reliability, and Carbon Hyperefficiency for Information Processing Systems (COOLERCHIPS). Other selected universities include Purdue University; the University of California, Davis; the University of Florida; the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; the University of Missouri; and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Published May 10, 2023