As part of a move to expand into supercomputing and deal with the excess heat that is a byproduct of bitcoin mining, BitFury Group, a bitcoin infrastructure provider and transaction processing company, has purchased Allied Control, which makes cooling systems for supercomputing and data centers.
One of the main issues with bitcoin mining is that it is energy-intensive work that produces a lot of heat as a byproduct. So much so that there has been speculation on both bitcoin blogs and more mainstream media that heating houses could be a way to put this currently wasted heat to good use. But such an application is likely some way off, and dealing with excess heat remains problematic in the meantime.
There is no one accepted amount for how much energy is needed for bitcoin mining, nor how much heat is generated as a byproduct. However as Izabella Kaminska wrote in the Financial Times last year, “Bitcoin’s biggest problem, by a distance, is its carbon footprint. Estimates of the network’s energy use vary from 7.31 gigawatt-hours per year at the most conservative – equal to about 680 average American homes – to that of the entire power consumption of Cyprus.”
A 2013 New York Times profile of one entrepreneur who moved operations to Iceland noted he did so to take advantage of cheap geothermal and hydroelectric energy, along with cooling arctic air for his overheated machines. When still working out of his house in London he had had to keep the windows open to deal with the heat his computers generated.
Since the bitcoin mining arms race really began and computers designed solely to solve the algorithms needed to mine the crypto-currency have taken off, excess heat has become another inevitable byproduct of doing business. Which is why BitFury is looking to improve operations with this purchase of the Hong Kong-based Allied Control, which produces a two-phase immersion system. This is a way of cooling that, though not new, has often been seen as too advanced for much computing work.
Instead of using water or oil, electronic parts are immersed in dielectric heat transfer liquids, which have a boiling point of less than half waters' at 49° C (120° F). As the company explains, “the fluids boil on the surface of heat generating components and rising vapor passively takes care of heat transfer... Circulation happens passively by the natural process of evaporation and without spending any extra energy. Compared to traditional air, water or oil cooling, this passive process results in the use of much less energy.”
What is interesting is that BitFury has said this is part of a move to expand from simply bitcoin mining and logistical support to entering the high-performance computing (HPC) market. Bitcoin mining has generated a large number of machines that not only become obsolete quickly, but are also are largely useless for anything else: the market has specialized rapidly. An expansion back to other kinds of computing from a bitcoin firm is thus an interesting, though probably logical, move.
“Our big scale production will get AC immersion cooling technology up to a new level," said BitFury CEO Valery Vavilov, speaking to bitcoin news site CoinDesk."Together, we hope to get leading positions on solutions for the HPC market,”