NUS and NTU launch first-of-its-kind tropical data centre testbed

An artist’s impression of the STDCT which will be housed on NUS’ Kent Ridge campus

Singapore, 18 June 2021 – The National University of Singapore (NUS) and Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore), together with key stakeholders in Singapore’s data centre industry, have established a new S$23 million research programme to develop innovative and sustainable cooling solutions for data centres located in tropical locations. A state-of-the-art testbed facility will be set up in NUS to promote co-creation and demonstration of such advanced cooling technologies.

The new Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed (STDCT)—the first of its kind in the tropics—will serve as an innovation hub for the academia and industry to work together to future-proof the region’s data centre industry. Curated by the Cooling Energy Science and Technology Singapore (CoolestSG) Consortium hosted at NUS, this programme will see researchers develop and demonstrate energy-efficient cooling technologies to achieve breakthroughs in the tropical data centre environment. The testbed facility is expected to be operational by 1 October 2021.

This programme is jointly funded by the National Research Foundation Singapore (NRF), and anchor industry partner Facebook. The research is led by NUS and NTU, and supported by Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA). Five other industry partners involved are Ascenix Pte Ltd, CoolestDC Pte Ltd, Keppel Data Centres, New Media Express Pte Ltd, and Red Dot Analytics Pte Ltd.

The rise of the digital economy has led to growing demand for data centres that house computing and data storage infrastructure. As computer servers generate a lot of heat, these data centres are currently air-cooled at temperatures between 23 and 27 degrees Celsius, and at ambient humidity of 50 to 60 per cent as the industrial practice.

Maintaining such controlled environments require high energy consumption, resulting in high cost and carbon emissions—particularly for tropical countries like Singapore.

Singapore supplies about 60 per cent of the data centres located in Southeast Asia. Data centres in Singapore consume almost 7 per cent of the country’s total energy needs, a figure projected to reach 12 per cent by 2030. Thus, there is increasing need to reduce power consumption and carbon footprint in packing more computing power within the same floor area, while developing solutions to sustain the cooling demands of data centres.

Professor Low Teck Seng, NRF’s CEO, said, “Data centres are the backbone of the digital economy and they require constant cooling for optimal operations. The new Sustainable Tropical Data Centre Testbed will accelerate the development and test bedding of innovative and sustainable solutions for data centres, towards commercial deployment. As part of our Energy Grid 2.0 programme, the testbed facility will also support Singapore’s journey towards becoming a low-emissions economy.”

The new STDCT will be housed on NUS Kent Ridge campus. The new facility will house state-of-the-art equipment such as a novel desiccant-coated heat exchanger design, and a StatePoint Liquid Cooling System (SPLC). The SPLC, developed by Nortek Air Solutions in partnership with Facebook, helps data centres operate more efficiently in tropical locations.

The combination of these technologies will enable a more energy-efficient cooling solution for buildings in a tropical climate which make use of ambient air that is otherwise hot and humid. Innovative chip-level hybrid cooling will be adopted to keep the servers cool. Smart operation of these technologies using Artificial Intelligence (AI), with the digital twin capability, will not only be more water and power efficient, but will also ensure the longevity of the data centre’s equipment and servers in the long run.

– Construction+ Online

Source: NUS