The vast majority of industrial and electrical equipment generates heat. And if too much of that heat builds up, consequences can range from component failure to serious danger.
A well-integrated cooling system can prevent such problems. They include devices and systems that draw heat away from the source so it naturally disperses and dissipates.
They also include systems that directly reduce or regulate temperature with the introduction of a coolant or other active temperature reduction mechanism.
In either arrangement, the buildup of heat is stopped before it can cause adverse effects. Cooling technology is sometimes easy overlooked even though it’s a majority priority.
The more we continue to electrify and automate our world, this increases the need for more efficient and reliable cooling systems. This can be accomplished by rethinking conventional cooling methods while also developing new solutions.
Common Types Of Cooling Systems
In general, cooling means reducing temperature, and there are many different ways of doing that. One of the most common is air cooling, which is essentially air conditioning using a compressor cycle and airflow to displace heat from a space or system. Intercoolers, heat exchanges, spot cooling, and heat sinks function in a similar capacity.
These systems will remove waste heat through vapor-compression, which utilizes compression, condensation, thermal expansion, and evaporation to actively redirect heat from one space to another via thermodynamics.
In addition to air cooling, liquid cooling helps draw heat away through water’s natural thermal conductivity and heat capacity.
Liquid cooling may be deployed through a water pump or fan, which moves water to actively conduct heat away from a system. It can also be passive by utilizing a coolant reservoir without the addition of a pump or fan.
Liquid cooling is more complex than air cooling and not always suitable for every equipment application, but it is more effective and efficient in high-power, high-performance settings.
Depending on the size and scale of the cooling requirement, these systems can be as compact as a small intercooler or heat sink used in a computer, or as large as the cooling towers of industrial power plants.
Evaporative cooling is sometimes used to supplement vapor-compression and refrigeration-in industrial cooling systems.
Evaporative cooling is passive and low energy, but it requires low humidity to be effective. Apart from introducing cooling systems, temperature reduction is possible through better equipment design.
Reducing the number of mechanical parts, lowering the voltage and frequency of electronics, and using materials that are thermally conductive rather than insulating, can go a long way for cooler operation.
Managing the operational environment through better ventilation is also effective for heat regulation in conventional industrial systems. But, heat management can get more complex and challenging when energy demands increase.
Compounding this is the need for better energy efficiency and reduced resource consumption. The challenges of data center cooling provide a clear example, and one that’s just as relevant to the industrial sector.
Data Center Cooling Systems As A Technology Testing Ground
As with the processes carried out in manufacturing facilities, power plants, and factories, large-scale data centers create a lot of heat. If that heat continues to build up, equipment performance suffers and will eventually fail.
Proper server cooling will prevent these issues. But since data centers are becoming bigger and more complex to accommodate growing computing requirements—all while resource use and sustainability become critical—the need for better cooling technology is vital to the present and future.
Most modern data center cooling systems will use a combination of air cooling and liquid cooling technology, along with special equipment configurations that account for the flow of hot and cold air through the data center.
These approaches can be effective, but new challenges are cropping up, such as the rising cost of energy and water scarcity.
In addition to investments in renewable energy sources and the use of grey water for liquid cooling systems, new technologies like immersion cooling in non-conductive liquid, geothermal cooling and solar cooling, and thermal wheel integration through KyotoCooling have been suggested as future temperature control solutions for data centers.
In addition to the temperature control methods themselves, smarter equipment monitoring and AI controls could help manage temperature more intelligently by activating cooling systems when and where they are needed most. These facilities may serve as a test-ground for systems that could lower the cooling and environmental cost of industrial equipment.