The Many Uses of Horse Laxatives
May 18, 2007 7:41 AM   Subscribe

It's not the first I've seen, but it might be the nicest. Puget Systems put together a nifty looking mineral-oil submerged computer and do some performance testing. In addition to the requisite YouTube video, there's also a conversation on their forum. The overclockers talk about it as well. [previous submerged mod thread]
posted by Fezboy! (25 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Why did they submerge the power supply? And why *didn't* they show how fast/cool it was running?
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on May 18, 2007

Sorry, I'm a possible dumas. I only watched the u2b video.
posted by DU at 7:57 AM on May 18, 2007

They should submerge the computer in agar, drop in some microbes, and see if they can spontaneously form some bionic cyborg machines brain. Then they should try to run Doom on it.
posted by Pastabagel at 8:05 AM on May 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Manoman, that's awesome. I have an old, unusued Dell box sitting unplugged in my basement. I really want to rip its guts out and set them up in oil now.
posted by COBRA! at 8:14 AM on May 18, 2007

Note that peak temperatures were 88c after 12 hours of high load.

I think an aquarium full of 88c mineral oil would be damn dangerous.
posted by Malor at 8:20 AM on May 18, 2007

It runs way cooler than that during normal operation. That's 12 straight hours of high / benchmarking load with no provisions made for cooling. The simple bubbler drops that by 3c. Using glass instead of acrylic for the aquarium would improve the heat transfer to the environment. The users in the overclockers forum had some pretty radical ideas to improve cooling as well.

But, yeah, I'd want to be damn sure the thing wouldn't tip and spill all over anyone.
posted by Fezboy! at 8:34 AM on May 18, 2007

(191 dregrees f.)
posted by Dave Faris at 8:40 AM on May 18, 2007

I'd be tempted to fill the aquarium up with astroglide and see if the computer started spontaneously downloading porn.
posted by rhymer at 8:40 AM on May 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

I bet the noise level is close to zero with the power supply submerged, a truly silent PC. Surprised more of the people who want zero noise systems aren't doing this.
posted by inthe80s at 8:40 AM on May 18, 2007

Forgive my ignorance, but why doesn't it short?
posted by zorro astor at 8:48 AM on May 18, 2007

I second zorro astor: how can a computer work when submerged in mineral oil or vegetable oil? Why not...a Slurpee?
posted by KokuRyu at 8:55 AM on May 18, 2007

Because slurpees are made of electricity-conducting ice. And sweet, sweet syrup, which probably also conducts.
posted by COBRA! at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2007

Mineral oil doesn't conduct electricity. They mention that there's a 'capacitance issue' with it, so I gather that's not absolutely true, but obviously it's true enough to work as computer coolant.
posted by Malor at 8:57 AM on May 18, 2007

Hehe, now combine this with the some fish and you've got a real machine.

I wonder if you could take off the fans, and set up a thermal siphon with a BIG radiator and cool it enough to peg the CPU constantly?
posted by Skorgu at 9:14 AM on May 18, 2007

I think an aquarium full of 88c mineral oil would be damn dangerous.

Yeah, I'm having trouble getting a grip on whether the entire oil bath was 88C or whether the oil was cooler but the chip lost ability to conduct heat to the oil. I wonder if some sort of slow mixing apparatus to circulate the oil would help.

Somehow I have trouble believing the oil got to 88C, because surely it would radiate and conduct away more heat than a tiny chip could give it.
posted by rolypolyman at 9:21 AM on May 18, 2007

mineral oil has (I believe) around twice the thermal conductivity of air; so depending on the mass of oil involved and the surface area exposed to air etc. (or if they hooked some sort of radiator e.g. from an air conditioner to the bath) it's entirely possible for the system to stabilize at some temperature like the 88dC... run it long enough and you'd see what that temperature is.

more oil, lower temperature. that small aquarium they got? yeah I would guess something higher. and don't forget the psu is putting out heat as is the north+south bridges and memory chips. often times the motherboard components are getting hotter than the cpu itself.

good news, dr ffreeze revived his old site from ca.1998. mainly for historical interest.
posted by dorian at 9:38 AM on May 18, 2007

s/twice/ten times/g
posted by dorian at 9:39 AM on May 18, 2007

Using oil for cooling isn't a new idea. Those large grey cylinders (called pole pigs) on top of telephone poles holding electrical transmission lines are 50 amp transformers that are filled with oil. That's why why they fail/get hit buy lightning, they produce a ton of smoke. The smoke is from the burning oil. FYI, pole pigs weigh nearly 250lbs and the oil inside is a carcinogen, so don't try to tap one for your home project.

As many have noted, oil does not conduct electricity. And it would have been smarter to use cooking oil, like this guy did, as it tolerates the heat better.

And acrylic is a stupid material to use here. I believe acrylic melts at around 200F, but softens below that. The max rated temperature for ordinary acrylic sheets is 176F (I don't know what they are using here).

88C is already 190F. So it's not a question of what happens if the aquarium breaks, but when. For this kid of application, use pyrex, or ceramic.
posted by Pastabagel at 9:52 AM on May 18, 2007

Looking at the fish under oil in Skorgu's link, I really hope they incorporated some kind of air pump to draw in oxygen from outside, otherwise those fish are going to suffocate.

Other than that, it's a pretty funny concept.
posted by quin at 10:17 AM on May 18, 2007

Pastabagel I can't imagine there are many PCB-insulated transformers on utility poles anymore, I'd think the Rich, Chunky Amps would be more of a deterrent than (according to Wikipedia) current transformer oils are nontoxic, some are even highly-purified mineral oil.

The tank in my link was a proof-of-concept demo for a new kind of deepfryer, not a new kind of fish tank. The way I'd make that work would be to have a large fishtank with a smaller, open-ended glass tank in the middle that goes down most of the way to the floor of the big tank and right to the top. Fill inner tank w/ oil and computer until the oil level is ~2" from the bottom and put a standard waterfall filter and fish in the external tank. If the big tank was big enough it should have enough thermal area to dissipate enough heat. I leave the design of a Folding@Home client capable of acting as a critically damped fishtank heater as an exercise for the reader.
posted by Skorgu at 11:23 AM on May 18, 2007

Cray computer pre-dated the case modders by almost 25 years with cool looking systems. This PDF has some really nice pictures of the Cray 2 which operated totally immersed in fluorinert. It was the first supercomputer designed as art deco furniture. It burned about 16,000 watts when operating. In the first picture you can see the waterfall cooler behind the computer. In the second picture you can see the arrays of disk drives the size of washing machines needed to feed the memory bandwidth.

It looked so cool that you just felt compelled to touch it, but the operators kind of freaked if you got near their $15 million baby -- although I once saw one with little fish decals on the front.
posted by JackFlash at 3:51 PM on May 18, 2007

posted by JackFlash at 3:52 PM on May 18, 2007

And now your cell phone has more computing power than it did.
posted by Dave Faris at 4:21 PM on May 18, 2007

Do you have any idea just how nasty it is to replace components with these things? You might as well buy a whole new system. Seriously, swap a video card and you'll have a date standing in front of the kitchen sink with a scrub brush for a couple hours, minimum.

I'll take water-cooled, thank you. Most car people will tell you the same thing.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 7:12 PM on May 18, 2007

Oh, I don't know. Like deep frying a turkey, I'd imagine. And like that, I'd probably want to do it outside on the patio.
posted by Dave Faris at 8:38 PM on May 18, 2007

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