Combating Corrosion in Data Centers


May 25, 2016

Data centers suck up a tremendous amount of energy. In an attempt to reduce the amount that goes into keeping computing equipment from overheating, many data centers use low-power systems that bring in outdoor air to keep things cool.

The problem is, these systems can bring in gaseous and particulate pollutants from the atmosphere that corrode the copper and silver in the computing equipment.

To provide a better understanding of this damage, Professors Jianshun Zhang, Jeremy Gilbert, and Roger Schmidt have been awarded $247,792 by the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineering (ASHRAE) to determine the impact of gaseous contamination and humidity on computing equipment performance in data centers.

The team will look at the impacts of gaseous pollutants such as SO2, NO2, H2S, O3 and Cl2 under various temperature and humidity conditions. These contaminants can act alone or together to corrode metals, causing permanent damage to circuit boards, connectors, integrated circuits, and other electronic components.

In their study, the researchers will subject copper, silver, and voltage-biased printed circuit cards to controlled concentrations of gaseous pollutants, temperatures, humidity, and air movement. Corrosion will be measured and analyzed to improve the understanding of the corrosion mechanisms of pollutant combinations and concentrations, as well as humidity and temperature.

Zhang, Gilbert, and Schmidt’s results and recommendations will help establish new design and operating guidelines for controlling humidity and pollutants in data centers around the world. Ultimately, the results of the study will help data centers use as little energy as possible while keeping their vital computing equipment humming.