Earth Matters Around the Web : Necessity Breeds Invention

When it comes to the environment, we probably hear more horror stories than we do success stories. Quite understandable, of course, as with all there is left to do heal our environment we don’t want to give the impression that we can rest on our laurels. On the other hand, too much pessimism is not any more helpful. So, if were to now mention the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, you might not be sure which direction this post is going.

Of course, the Fukushima nuclear breach was an utter disaster. However, in its wake, Japan as taken many of their nuclear plants offline. Consequently, the island nation’s need to cut down on electricity demands has become crucial. This is where necessity breeds invention, as relayed by a recent article in the New York Times, which tells of new experiments in submerging supercomputers. What does that mean, exactly? Well, apparently, the supercomputers that crunch the mountains of data we all climb tend to overheat, requiring, sometimes, millions of dollars in electricity to run air conditioners. That cost is high for the companies paying it, the waste is bad for the environment, and, for Japan, too high a demand for electricity. To cut the demands of supercomputers, Tokyo Institute of Technology has successfully submerged such a computer in mineral oil, dramatically reducing the need for air conditioning. Now, you would not expect it to be healthy for a computer to be submerged in liquid, but because the liquids that this laboratory and others are testing do not conduct electricity, there is no risk of short circuiting the computers. There may, however, be other side-effects, but those have not been revealed. For the moment, the submerging of supercomputers to reduce demands for toxic coolants and large amounts of electricity seems to be a promising endeavor.

13supercomputer-pic1-sfSpanJeremie Souteyrat for The New York Times

Satoshi Matsuoka, the project leader, with the Tokyo Institute of Technology supercomputer that is cooled with mineral oil rather than air conditioning.


Does anyone know of any other such environmental success stories or promising prospects?

Please share by leaving a comment!

One thought on “Earth Matters Around the Web : Necessity Breeds Invention

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