Emerging technologies for more sustainable ICT

Distributed Servers Could Become 'Data Furnaces'

We have been covering the use of datacenter waste heat to warm facilities from municipal buildings to swimming pools since 2009. That led to coverage of a 2011 Microsoft research idea for how individual servers might become 'data furnances'. That original post with excerpts from the researchers' publication is available below.

Three European companies have now brought the idea to market. Two explain the concept with a video.

DC Power Distribution for ICT

Most ICT gear - core facilities, communications infrastructures, and edge devices - runs on DC power. Converting AC to DC within a building is inefficient, on-site renewable power generation is often DC to begin with, and super-efficient LED lighting is also DC. All this seems to make DC power distribution an attractive option for ICT facilities, but there have been vigorous arguments for and against. Recent events, beginning a 380-V DC standard for ICT power distribution in 2011, suggest the tide is turning in favor of DC distribution.

Image courtesy IEEE Spectrum

Will Liquid-Cooled Computers Make a Comeback?

Liquid cooling was once a staple of large-scale computing, but has largely been replaced by air cooling. We identified several efforts to bring liquid cooling to the server world in our first version of this post in 2012 and have seen continuous progress since. Here is the latest news.

Technologies for the Future of Green ICT

There is a rich global mix of advanced concepts and technologies emerging from research labs that may improve the future sustainability of ICT equipment and infrastructures. We regularly update this post with technologies of interest. (You can see all the technologies which hold the promise of greener ICT in the future by clicking the 'FutureTech' tag, above.) Our latest posts span research into biological agents that can recover gold from e-waste to multiferroic materials to reduce device waste heat.

'Internet of Things' Presents Green ICT Challenges

We've counted over 17 billion pieces of e-gear attached to the global ICT infrastructure. The 'Internet of Things' (IoT) will dramatically increase this number by the end of the decade. Can technology keep up with the energy and resource demands?

Innovative Internet for Remote Areas

Billions of people live in areas still without telecommunications access. Innovative delivery ideas emerged in 2013, including balloons. 2014 updates include a Facebook video explaining its solutions using satellites, drones, and lasers, Google's plans to add satellites to its mix of balloons and drones, and an announcement of a surprising new player.

Demo Combines Fuel Cells with DC Distribution to Power Servers

The convergence of multiple lines of Green ICT inquiry is a sign of Green ICT progress. We have covered the growing use of fuel cells to power ICT facilities and the advancement of DC distribution inside the data center. A recent demonstration brings these two concepts together to improve energy efficiency and reliability.

American Tech Giants Collaberate with Africa to Develop TV White Spaces

TV Whites Spaces (TVWS) are portions of the broadcast spectrum that, depending on your perspective, either are valuable unused frequencies or are usefully buffering against adjacent channel interference. The potential for TVWS to deliver wireless services is a major controversy in the United States between the wireless community and the broadcast community. Microsoft and Google are both using Africa to demonstrate the viability of delivering connectivity via TVWS with projects launched in early 2013. Microsoft launched another white spaces project in late 2013.

Non-Chemical Batteries Emerge for ICT Facilities and Infrastructure

What is a battery? A device to store energy and convert it to electricity on demand? This is an important question as ICT facilities and infrastructure elements increasingly rely on sophisticated battery-based systems such as UPS. Potentially greener alternatives are emerging to chemical batteries, with flywheels appearing to have the most momentum for ITC facilities going into 2013.

Let's start by reviewing the role energy storage devices play in ICT. A 2011 APC white paper lists three applications:

Sewage Powers Microsoft's Zero Carbon Data Center

Microsoft has announced plans to spend $5.5 million to build a zero-carbon data center pilot project in Wyoming. A source of very low carbon electricity is key to such projects. Microsoft's power generation fuel? Municipal sewage!

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