You must have definitely stumbled across those tiny packets of desiccant packets of silica gel that have a labelling on them that says “do not eat”. Well, recent study reveals that they might soon help to keep data centres cool. IBM has recently launched its THRIVE project with the main aim of doing just that by creating a heat pump which will run on waste heat.
Normally, heat pumps tend to work by absorbing the ambient heat which tends to vaporize the refrigerant that’s stored in an evaporator. That vaporized form of refrigerant then runs towards an electrically run compressor which further liquefies it. The heat is then expelled and the refrigerant tends to run back down in the evaporator.
The THRIVE, however, makes use of a ‘passive adsorption heat exchanger’ in place of a condenser which run on electricity. Research says that this adsorption heat exchanger works just like a radiator. It tends to pull in a massive amount of vapour and then compresses it using the various multitude fins. Silica gel, just like the one which is used in desiccate pouches in shoe and electronic boxes etc, will be packed in between these fins so as to improve the cooling efficiency.
According to those who are working on THRIVE, extensive use of adsorption heat pumps could theoretically reduce the electricity consumption for heating/cooling purposes to approximately 65%. This can definitely be regarded as a significant feat in itself.