International Journal of Energy Research, Vol.44, No.6, 4759-4772, 2020
Combined heat and power generation via hybrid data center cooling-polymer electrolyte membrane fuel cell system
Although there has been a lot of waste heat utilization studies for the air-cooled data center (DC) systems, the waste heat utilization has not been studied for the liquid-cooled DC systems, which have been rapidly gaining importance for the high-performance Information and Communication Technology facilities such as cloud computing and big data storage. Compared to the air-cooled systems, higher heat removal capacity of the liquid-cooled DC systems provides better heat transfer performance; and therefore, the waste heat of the liquid-cooled DC systems can be more efficiently utilized in the low-temperature and low-carbon energy systems such as electricity generation via polymer electrolyte membrane (PEM) fuel cells. For this purpose, the current study proposes a novel hybrid system that consists of the PEM fuel cell and the two-phase liquid-immersion DC cooling system. The two-phase liquid immersion DC cooling system is one of the most recent and advanced DC cooling methods and has not been considered in the DC waste heat utilization studies before. The PEM fuel cell unit is operated with the hydrogen and compressed air flows that are pre-heated in the DC cooling unit. Due to its original design, the hybrid system brings its own original design criteria and limitations, which are taken into account in the energetic and exergetic assessments. The power density of the PEM fuel cell reaches up to 0.99 kW/m(2) with the water production rate of 0.0157 kg/s. In the electricity generation case, the highest energetic efficiency is found as 15.8% whereas the efficiency increases up to 96.16% when different multigeneration cases are considered. The hybrid design deduces that the highest exergetic efficiency and sustainability index are 43.3% and 1.76 and they are 9.4% and 6.6% higher than exergetic and sustainability performances of the stand-alone PEM fuel cell operation, respectively.