Fuel Cells and Servers

This entry was posted by on Thursday, 11 March, 2010 at

Recently I have seen some news articles about using fuel cells to power servers. One of the biggest stories that has broken recently was the story about Bloom Box . Since it is rare that a product appears with no competition, I suspected there would be other products on the market, so I entered a search. A German IT company named T Systems set up fuel cell systems in 2007 to cool its servers with fuel cells powered by methane, which is also the fuel that powers the Bloom Box. This project was a combined endeavor of several German companies, Power and Air Solutions, Voigt und Haeffner, and CFC Solutions.

Why is this such a draw? Because the fuel cells themselves don’t take up as much space as traditional batteries, they can be useful as a backup power source. Space is always precious in the server room. In addition, the methane used to power the fuel cells can be created from many different renewable sources such as corn, so it’s not necessary to burn petroleum to power them. This setup also insulates the server power costs somewhat from oil price spikes, although many methods of growing corn do rely heavily on petroleum. Since the Internet is still growing rapidly and gaining in prominence, anything that allows the servers which power it to use more renewable sources of power is always a good plan.

Following up the CFC Solutions lead showed that this company is actually a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. CFC Solutions is a subsidiary of MTU Systems, which is a subsidiary of DaimlerChrysler. Good to know that, as it means they have a large automaker backing their research, and there is potential for crossover use of the fuel cells in upcoming Chrysler and Mercedes lines. For example, this new Mercedes hybrid is capable of getting 81 MPG. The car is plug in capable and can reach a range of 20 miles solely powered by electricity.

If you go to the MTU Systems website, they do have an English page set up. The Hot Module fuel cell is the device that powers the servers, and MTU explains some of the features that give this fuel cell the advantage. For example, the device is claimed to be quiet, without vibrations or parts that create wear. Since it’s designed to burn methane, there isn’t any other pollution since CH4 + (2)O2 → CO2 + H2O. The MTU page also suggests that the Hot Module is capable of using fuels other than methane, and even using a blend of other fuels and mixing in other fuels while operating uninterrupted. Very similar technology to the Bloom Box from what I could tell.

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