Cooling Operations Optimized for Leaps in Energy, Reliability, and Carbon Hyperefficiency for Information Processing Systems

Program Graphic for ARPA-E's COOLERCHIPS program

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Program Description:

The COOLERCHIPS program will develop transformational, highly efficient, and reliable cooling technologies for data centers. The target for COOLERCHIPS is to reduce total cooling energy expenditure to less than 5% of a typical data center’s IT load at any time and any U.S. location for a high-density compute system. A data center’s total cooling energy is the energy needed to ensure that all heat generated from its IT and non-IT loads is rejected. Reducing data center cooling energy will reduce the operational CO2 footprint of data center operations. COOLERCHIPS technologies will achieve these goals by dramatically reducing the thermal resistance of heat rejection, which will allow for coolants to exist at temperatures much closer to operating temperatures of the latest generation of chips (targeting <10°C difference between chip and coolant). This will result in more efficient heat removal from the facility. The program will develop solutions for high volumetric compute density systems of >80kW/m3, equivalent to about >3kW per server. COOLERCHIPS aims to be commercially competitive with current state-of-the-art solutions by offering a lower total cost of ownership without compromising data center reliability and availability.

Program technology tracks include development of: (1) components pertaining to the secondary cooling loop that transfers heat from the servers to the facility water or primary cooling loop, (2) cooling systems for modular/EDGE data centers that encompass the secondary and primary cooling loops, which transfer heat from facility water to the ambient, (3) innovative data center cooling system software that will include the ability to model energy efficiency, reliability, CO2 footprint, and cost simultaneously, and (4) support facilities for testing new technologies developed under the first two tracks.

Innovation Need:

All electrical energy going into a data center must eventually be rejected as heat to the environment through a cooling system. Data center cooling can be energy intensive; it may account for up to 33—40% of overall data center energy usage and consumes hundreds of billions of gallons of fresh water per year.

With chip manufacturing processes reaching fundamental limitations for scaling ever-smaller transistors, it is anticipated that processor power will rise, increasing data center power density. In addition, recent weather events have caused extreme heat, droughts, and other challenges, limiting the availability of sometime scarce resources for cooling purposes. Cooling energy for data centers is significant today, and these trends make it an even more important energy area in the future.

Potential Impact:

Technologies funded under the COOLERCHIPS program should support transformational cooling technologies for compute systems with high performance and reliability that are an order of magnitude more energy efficient than the state-of-the-art.


COOLERCHIPS cooling systems will aim for high heat transfer performance and reliability comparable to baseline cooling systems to achieve uptime above 99%.


Efficient cooling and higher heat rejection temperatures could lead to drastically reduced energy and water use as well as a reduced CO2 footprint.


High coolant temperatures would enable high quality waste heat recovery for other applications. Use of more reduced sized coolers would also make modular data centers more feasible, allowing the cooling system to scale with the size of the module, improving maintainability and reducing cost.


Program Director:
Dr. Peter de Bock
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