The February 2023 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

IBM Tests Heating Homes With Data-Center Waste Heat

Cooling computers with hot water is a step toward zero-emission data centers

2 min read

20 November 2008—Data centers are notorious energy hogs. In 2006, data centers in the United States ran up an electric bill of US $4.5 billion, according to a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency report. But engineers at IBM’s Zurich Research Laboratory think they can cut data centers’ energy consumption in half by cooling computers with water and reusing the dissipated energy to heat nearby homes. This week, at the International Conference for High Performance Computing, Networking, Storage and Analysis, known as SC08, in Austin, Texas, the IBM engineers presented details of a prototype system, which they say will be commercially available in five years.

The engineers have built a data center that reuses 85 percent of the heat it generates while consuming about half the electricity, says Bruno Michel, manager of the advanced thermal packaging group at IBM’s Zurich laboratory. Instead of using air-conditioning or fans, the data center is cooled with water pumped through microchannels within the computers. The water absorbs the heat from the data center and is then pumped out to nearby houses for heating. The occupants pay for the heat. A 10-megawatt data center could produce enough energy to heat 700 homes, says Michel.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions

An IBM Quantum Computer Will Soon Pass the 1,000-Qubit Mark

The Condor processor is just one quantum-computing advance slated for 2023

4 min read
This photo shows a woman working on a piece of apparatus that is suspended from the ceiling of the laboratory.

A researcher at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center examines some of the quantum hardware being constructed there.

Connie Zhou/IBM

IBM’s Condor, the world’s first universal quantum computer with more than 1,000 qubits, is set to debut in 2023. The year is also expected to see IBM launch Heron, the first of a new flock of modular quantum processors that the company says may help it produce quantum computers with more than 4,000 qubits by 2025.

This article is part of our special report Top Tech 2023.

While quantum computers can, in theory, quickly find answers to problems that classical computers would take eons to solve, today’s quantum hardware is still short on qubits, limiting its usefulness. Entanglement and other quantum states necessary for quantum computation are infamously fragile, being susceptible to heat and other disturbances, which makes scaling up the number of qubits a huge technical challenge.

Keep Reading ↓Show less