Episode 35: Future development of immersion fluids in the tech sector

Joseph Star, business development manager for Product Solutions at ExxonMobil, based in London, UK, discusses the emerging field of liquid cooling, particularly in data centres, and the role of fluids in this space. He explains that the need for processing power and the rise of AI are driving the growth of data centres.

Immersion fluids, in particular single phase, are gaining traction due to the increasing processing power and the need to dissipate more heat within the same space.

Star’s insights shed light on the evolving landscape of data centre cooling solutions and the role of immersion fluids in addressing the industry’s growing demands for efficient and effective cooling technologies. His discussion provided valuable perspectives on the future of immersion fluids and their potential impact on the data centre industry’s sustainability and operational efficiency.

Star sees the development of immersion fluids in the future as a rapidly growing and evolving space with several key characteristics and challenges. Here are the key insights from the interview:

  • Fluid Characteristics: Star emphasises the importance of dielectric properties in immersion fluids, as the fluid circulates around and goes through all components. He mentions that the majority of hydrocarbon-based fluids inherently possess this property. He also discusses the use of synthetic fluids, such as poly alpha olefins, which provide stability and a relatively high flashpoint, which is crucial for safety.
  • Fluid Selection: Star highlights the significance of fluid viscosity, particularly in single-phase immersion cooling, where lower viscosity fluids are preferred as they require less energy to circulate through the system. He mentions that ExxonMobil has launched a broad portfolio of fluids to cater to different operational needs.
  • Fluid Formulation and Lifespan: When discussing the composition of the finished product, Star mentions that the formulation is proprietary and involves considering material compatibility and the lifespan of the fluid. He expects the fluid to last around 10 years without the need for top-ups due to its single-phase nature.
  • Technical Challenges: Star addresses technical challenges, including material compatibility, maintenance of equipment, and the need to develop and adjust immersion fluids based on the evolving needs of the industry.

When asked about the future of immersion fluids, he said the expectation is that its market share will grow from the current 8% to 18% by 2032. He mentions that ExxonMobil’s current portfolio of immersion fluids is generation one and that they will continue to develop their offerings based on industry requirements.