Innovation

The vanadium redox flow battery

Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Facilities Management, Industry Trends, Innovation, Site Improvement | 0 comments

If you’re like me, you’ve had to deal with a few batteries in your career. It’s usually one of the weak links in mission-critical environments; and consequently, we find ourselves obsessing over battery condition, life expectancy, and failure rates quite often. We can literally spend millions of dollars each year due to failed cells or end-of-life replacements. Wouldn’t it be nice not to have to deal with that – or even to worry about it? I have recently (with some excitement, I might add) been investigating vanadium redox flow batteries. These systems use fluids — or more precisely, electrolytes — to store energy. I’m not going to get technical in this post; but if you want to know more today, here’s a Wikipedia link. How the battery works Basically, there are two tanks of electrolyte with a membrane in a frame between the two.  The two electrolytes set up a potential across the membrane that allows for the flow of electrons....

Read More

Creating innovation

Posted by on May 1, 2014 in Innovation, Leadership | 0 comments

We constantly see magazine articles, blogs, and books that profess methodologies for creating innovation in organizations. I’m here to tell you that innovation doesn’t have to be created. It’s always been there. People are natural problem-solvers. It’s in our nature. We look at our situation, we look at what we have, and we naturally try to come up with a solution. Sometimes in this quest to solve problems, we innovate – we come up with something new. Where does the “new” come from? According to Plato, necessity is the mother of invention, and I have to agree. When we’re faced with a need, our brains try lots of different scenarios to come up with a viable solution. Sometimes we link previous experiences with our current situation and come up with something entirely new. For example, working in the patent office in Bern, Switzerland, Albert Einstein was exposed to questions related to the synchronization of time which led to thought experimentation and eventually to his theory of relativity....

Read More

Dancing with the devil you know

Posted by on Nov 14, 2012 in Facilities Management, Featured, Innovation, Leadership, Site Improvement | 4 comments

I have often had the opportunity to make decisions about which vendors or contractors to use during my career and, like many, I chose the easy way out – I just extended the contract or agreement.  In hindsight, I have to say, I missed a great opportunity.  I continued to dance with the devil I knew rather than with the angel I didn’t. On one occasion, however, I took a different approach by inviting several vendors to compete for a contract.  We did a very thorough specification and evaluation based upon what we needed, backed it up with research, and articulated it in such a manner as to be able to compare apples to apples. After we narrowed our selection to three vendors and had them perform for us, we evaluated the results – which showed that we should go with a new vendor.  The decision actually gave us exactly what we needed at a very significant cost savings.  Add to this the fact that the new company was also local and gave us almost immediate response to our issues, and you can see why it was a very satisfying outcome....

Read More

Could cold-air channeling help your data center?

Posted by on Oct 4, 2012 in Industry Trends, Innovation, Site Improvement | 1 comment

While everyone is trying to save money by controlling energy usage at data centers (the topic has even hit the pages of the New York Times in recent days) what do we do with all the older data centers?  How can we increase efficiency in these sites? One answer is to control the cold air.  While controlling the warm air is also important, it does what it does naturally — rise.  Cold air, on the other hand, needs to be delivered to the proper location for it to do its job. Many of the older data centers were designed with under-raised-floor-cold-air delivery.  The rooms are lined with CRAC units that draw warm air from the overhead area and deliver cold air under the floor to be distributed through perforated tiles. In my experience, you contain the vital resource to the maximum extent possible to minimize losses and conserve it.  So it has always seemed strange to me that designers and engineers have historically chosen to contain the warm air when the vital resource is the cold air.  I would allow the warm air to either escape or have the maximum opportunity to lose some of its energy to the environment so as to work with physics and not against it....

Read More

Hidden costs in new data center designs

Posted by on Mar 30, 2012 in Facilities Management, Industry Trends, Innovation, Site Improvement | 3 comments

I enjoyed watching one of the old “Top Gear” episodes recently that discussed the lifetime cost of ownership of the Land Rover as compared to the Prius.  The episode discussed the mining of the materials necessary for the batteries and how that impacted the real cost of each car.  The “Top Gear” hosts stated something to the effect that when you factored in what it costs to manufacture and properly dispose of the lithium batteries, the Land Rover was actually “greener” than the Prius. While there is debate whether what was said on “Top Gear” was true or not, it did get me to think about some of the new innovations that I’m seeing in data centers.  When I look at factors beyond the obvious operating costs, I find that some of the innovations have hidden costs that affect total cost of ownership.  Let’s look at some designs and explore the possible hidden costs....

Read More

Stirling engines for data centers

Posted by on Mar 16, 2012 in Facilities Management, Innovation, Site Improvement | 0 comments

Stirling Engines For Data Centers Classified as an external combustion engine, a Stirling engine is one that runs off an external heat source. The Stirling engine was conceived in 1816 by Scottish engineer, Robert Stirling. If you look it up on Wikipedia, you will see that these engines use an external heat source and require a cooler source to expel waste heat. If you actually had to build one as a science project as we did, you likely discovered that it could run a small fan from the heat of your hand. This picture shows a Stirling engine you can get from 3B Scientific that does exactly that. Are Stirling engines practical for data centers? So, you have to think: We have hot air out of the back of the servers and a cooling source (usually chill water or cooling water). We could use Stirling engines to power fans to move air through a heat exchanger. Imagine if your data center used nothing more than waste heat to move the air in it. How much could you save? The Stirling engine could also be used to assist in the movement of cooling water to and from heat exchangers and towers or other heat sinks....

Read More