By Alexey Chistov, Comino’s CTO
July 27th, 2018

Burning Man

Technologies struggling to reduce waste of energy

Burning Man

By Alexey Chistov, Comino’s CTO
July 27th, 2018

Technologies struggling to reduce waste of energy

The fight with pollution - whether it's plastic bottles or the release of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere - are just a few of the concerns facing environmental protection. “Not only do we know advancing technology can be effectively applied; we know that it could help our planet drastically”, - convinces Alexey Chistov, Comino’s CTO.

In a sense, our planet is a battery that preserves the energy received from the sun.  It’s a renewable energy source which grows over time. However, if humanity will one day burn all available energy faster than it consumes, then someday it will all just end. Nobody knows when it will happen. But a sense of one’s own responsibility is extremely important at this time.

One of humanity’s social responsibilities for future generations is an attempt to reduce the amount of waste being thrown into the environment and to reuse and recycle that same waste again and again. Few have thought about it this way, but the heat we expel is just as bad as a plastic bag floating down the street.

The issue of generating “garbage” heat has been around for quite awhile. Scientists and futurologists have started forecasting that very moment when humanity begins to build data-centers in space because the volume of information people use has become exponential. It’s needed, because, the more data-centers on earth, the more heat in our atmosphere.

The Law of Energy Conservation says that energy in a closed ecosystem does not change quantitatively. The only thing that happens is a transition from an effective form of energy to another form. The effectiveness of an energy-saving lamp greatly exceeds the efficiency of a conventional incandescent lamp – less energy goes into heat and more into lighting a space.

Modern technologies are developing in this direction in order to increase the efficiency of operating systems. For example, modern cars in Formula 1 are now equipped with recycling systems that process kinetic energy, which is produced during braking, into electricity. However, it’s not always possible to improve the efficiency of a device.

The modern laptop cannot overcome the 10% scope of efficiency. This is due to the physical limitations of semiconductor materials that are used in computational chips. It will not change until there is a transition to alternative computing platforms, such as a quantum computer. All “parasitic” power is converted into heat, which is dispelled, but not always used.

On the one hand, it’s logical, because to convert heat into any other form of energy is an inefficient and expensive process. Due to this fact, heat is simply thrown into the atmosphere and not properly disposed of.

In addition, there are contributing processes that we can not change. Any living creature produces heat. For example, a person’s body produces, on average, 400 watts per hour. Therefore, it is so important to pay attention to those aspects of our activities that we are able to evolve and improve.

To date, the most effective option for recycling “garbage” heat is its use in heating and air in our homes. Meaning, we do not convert one type of energy into another, but effectively use parasitic power in domestic processes.

The liquid cooling system is able to effectively solve two problems: to remove heat from computer equipment and to transport it to the consumer with the fewest losses and costs.

Liquid cooling systems can resolve and reduce the power consumption of the computer system in general, sealing the system to take up less space, as well as sustain a more stable operation of the system due to more efficient cooling.

This is the manifestation of an outcry for optimal and efficient use of electricity. Ultimately, it works to bolster the life of our planet. The advent of liquid cooling systems is not an invention of yesterday. They have long proven themselves both in industrial production and in everyday life.

It’s all the more surprising that modern technologies have only recently begun to remove heat with water. Only in 2010, did we finally see the supercomputer Aquasar utilizing liquid cooling, which almost instantly saved 40% of electricity when compared to similar systems with air cooling.

In the digital world, one of the strongest trends is the increase in computing power for the cryptocurrency. And, perhaps, it’s the mining farms that raise the acutest environmental issues for computer systems. Now, the amount of energy spent for cryptocurrency mining is similar to what is consumed by a small country, for example, Denmark. If 15 % of these energy costs fall directly on mining processes, in reality, this figure is unlikely to exceed 10%. Meaning, about 90% of electricity is “idle.”

Let’s look at Ethereum. Extraction of one “ETH” takes around 1.5 Gigawatts to mine, on average. At the same time, the efficiency of the most well-tuning mining farms is no more than 10% (that is the maximum efficiency that computers can provide).

In other words, about 90% of the energy is guaranteed to transfer to heat without any effective use. When mining at home and on relatively small systems, this heat simply goes into the atmosphere.

Typically, when looking at mining, it mainly consists of large projects and not just a few computers mining crypto in a spare bedroom. These are industrial mining farms, which raise the issue of removing heat to an entirely different level – just opening the ventilator is simply not enough. For example, Northern Chinese legislators oppose mining, because it causes serious environmental and energy problems.

The consumption of energy by cooling systems is difficult to determine. PUE*8 is the energy efficiency factor- such systems range from 1.4 to 2. This means that if the farm consumes 1 kW, then its cooling system may have an additional 600 to 1000 Watts.

Thus, in the worst case scenario, it turns out that out of 1 kW spent on extraction, for example, “Ethereum” (0.5 kW for computational processes and 0.5 kW for cooling), 100 W (10%) goes directly to the calculation. The rest “leaves” as heat and for its diversion.

Liquid cooling, due to its efficient removal and transportation of heat, can reduce PUE to 1.1 and even lower. Thus, to reduce the amount of energy from 1 kW to 0.55 kW, the “garbage” 0.45 kW can be used for domestic purposes – in the heating of a home or business. That, in the long run, improves the efficiency of the mining farms themselves.

Alexey Chistov concludes: “It seems to me, that in the future such an approach will allow for building closed ecosystems, in which effective energy will be spent for calculations, and “garbage” – in the form of heat – will be allocated for heating. The mining farm will simultaneously become both a large computing center and a boiler room. This is just one example of how energy can be efficiently improved today. I am sure that tomorrow will bring many more ideas for the rational use of energy in new capacities”.


*Comino specializes in energy-efficient machines and liquid-cooled supercomputers for any operations requiring high processing power, such as big data analysis, neural networks, AI, mining ETH and other cryptocurrencies.

**PUE (Power Usage Effectiveness) – PUE is the ratio of total amount of energy used by a computer data center facility to the energy delivered to computing equipment. An ideal PUE is 1.0