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World's fastest and most efficient super computer is mineral-oil cooled

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Crowned the greenest supercomputer, the Tsubame-KFC system at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, hit a record 4.5 gigaflops per watt. That’s about 25 percent more efficient than the list’s number-two, Cambridge University’s Wilkes, at 3.6 gigaflops per watt. In third place was the system at Japan’s Center for Computational Sciences, at the University of Tsukuba, at 3.5 gigaflops per watt.

What is mineral oil? Sounds delicious!

A super-heat conducting, non-electron transferring liquid commonly used from everything from food preparation to polishing casino chips, which when used as the all-area coolant for a submerged PC, results in some serious bad-assery overclocking.


Q: What is mineral oil cooling?

A: Mineral oil cooling typically involves submersing various portions of your computer, if not your whole computer (motherboard, power supply, graphics cards etc.) into mineral oil. Mineral oil often goes by the following names: "baby oil", "white oil", or "transformer oil". Most setups involve some sort of tank (fabricated or a common aquarium) with about at least 5 gallons of oil or more, depending on what components you wish to cool.

Q: What is the goal?

A: Mineral oil has a higher thermal conductivity (it carries heat) better than air. More importantly, mineral oil allows you to cool your entire computer at once: CPU, GPU, RAM, even your PSU. Oil cooling can cool things that even water cooling can't: think of all of those minor ICs scattered about your motherboard. Not to mention, mineral oil computers are virtually dead silent.

Q: Mineral oil is a liquid, won't it short-circuit electronics?

A: While mineral oil is a liquid, it is not water. Mineral oil (at least high grade mineral oil) is completely non-conductive.

Q: Won't mineral oil eat away at my components?

A: Generally no. The exception might be rubber components or electrolytic capacitor (i.e. non-solid capacitors). There are reports of rubber-capped electrolytic capacitors bursting as the oil eats the rubber and seeps into the capacitor itself. Most newer, and better quality motherboards, have solid capacitors ("solid caps"). I have heard (but not experienced, yet) that mineral oil will harden the housing on plastic cables--something else to be mindful of.

Q: Won't my fans burn out in mineral oil?

A: If the fans are spinning, probably not. There is a common misconception that mineral oil computers should use no fans or have the fans set on low. While I agree with the former point as a viable option, I have to disagree with the latter. If anything, causing the fans not to spin will burn them out; this is easily observed when a case fan gets somehow obstructed and the DC motor burns out. From my experiences, I prefer leaving the fans in: I find that they help with circulation.

Q: Won't the oil heat up over time?

A: To an extent, yes. The easiest way to solve this is to install a simple radiator and a cheap pump. My whole set-up cost less than $30 (free fountain pump that someone threw away, $1 of vinyl tubing, and a $25 radiator from Pep Boys.) Other options include using a glass tank versus an acrylic case (glass radiates heat better than acrylic), using C1E, Cool 'n' Quiet, etc, or using more oil (more oil means a higher overall thermal capacity of your system).

Q: Isn't it messy and hard to clean?

A: Mineral oil is messy, but it is not impossible to deal with. If you decide to build a mineral oil PC, plan your design out thoroughly before submersing your components. Mineral oil can be washed off of components with soapy water or rubbing alcohol. Small amounts can be easily dabbed up with a paper towel.

Q: Doesn't this kill your upgradeability?

A: Not necessarily (see above). Provided that you design your setup in such a way that components are easily accessible, upgrading is still viable. A pump or a siphon could help drain the oil from the tank, allowing you to access the components within. More to come soon (with your help of course!).

Links :

  • Legoman's Mineral Oil PC at [H]ard Forums (A 20 page discussion about one man's custom mineral oil setup. Extremely informative.
  • Puget Systems Mineral Oil PC (The company that helped bring mineral oil to the masses via their V1, V2, and V3 DIY kits. These guys also put together a very methodological guide, and are definitely worth checking out.

Wait, baby oil = mineral oil ?!

Mind blown.

mushroom cloud mind blown gif Imgur

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