BP's lubrication subsidiary Castrol has joined with the Research Institutes of Sweden (RISE) to help develop next-generation immersion cooling fluids for use in data centers.

Single-phase immersion cooling systems, such as Submer's, can use a variety of cooling fluids. Some of these are unpopular for environmental damage, while others incur high costs. The partnership will look at longer-term solutions to the challenges associated with the development of next-generation computing and materials.

castrol liquid engineerg crop.jpg
– Castrol

Castrol already works with immersion cooling specialist Submer on future fluids and has set up a UK test center for potential customers at its headquarters. At RISE's facilities in Sweden, Castrol will look at thermal management and materials science using RISE's data center test bed, aiming to develop Castrol's ON range of immersion cooling fluids.

RISE is an independent, Swedish state-owned research institute, which has produced innovative research in data centers, including testing fuel cell backup, and building the Boden Type data center which explored free cooling, and "holistic cooling." Recent research from RISE seems likely to upset the industry consensus that warm data centers may be more efficient.

Single-phase immersion cooling, such as that practiced by Submer, reduces the energy required by cooling and delivers waste heat in a more useful form than the air-conditioning systems used in most data centers. It can be performed by synthetic fluids such as those provided by Castrol, as well as other fluids, such as the plant-based alternative made from vegetable oil recently announced by Cargill.

Two-phase immersion cooling, which boils and condenses fluids to remove heat faster, needs more specialized fluids with precise thermal performance. So far, these have tended to be PFAS chemicals, rather than mineral or vegetable oils, but the industry is coming under pressure to phase out PFAS as they build up in human bodies and are believed to be harmful.

Rebecca Yates, BP Technology’s vice president of Advanced Lubricants Products, said: “Immersion cooling is a fast-developing sphere of innovation, spurred on by the global need to optimize the efficiency and energy usage of the world’s most powerful data centers."

Get a monthly roundup of Sustainability news, direct to your inbox.