Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack / Cabinet
Navy SBIR 2014.1 - Topic N141-043
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: Dec 20, 2013 - Closes: Jan 22, 2014

N141-043 TITLE: Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack / Cabinet

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Information Systems

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS377, Amphibious Warfare

OBJECTIVE: Develop a computer rack / cabinet with an improved, more efficient, Flexible Infrastructure (FI) HVAC compatible, air cooling system to provide an alternative solution to the existing permanent ducted HVAC cooling services.

DESCRIPTION: Typical shipboard computer racks/cabinets (e.g. 19"w x 24"d x59.5"h Common Processing System (CPS) cabinets) (REF 1) have a standardized frame or enclosure for mounting multiple computer equipment modules. Because the equipment is installed and operated in small spaces a large amount of heat is generated, a more efficient, Flexible Infrastructure (FI) HVAC compatible, air cooling system is necessary to maintain the desired system operability and service life. Standard, fully-populated computer racks/cabinets use a series of fans which are rigidly mounted on the side/back of the rack/cabinet and require a duct directly connected to the ships Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system return service to remove heat from the ships computer rooms.

This topic seeks to develop an innovative, more efficient air cooling solution to cool individual computer racks/cabinets utilizing the below-deck plenum of the Flexible Infrastructure open HVAC (REF 2,3,4) system supply air. The goals of the system would be to eliminate the standard cooling fans by bringing in cool HVAC supply air directly from below-deck plenum and allowing hot exhaust air to exit from the top of the rack near the ships overhead plenum returns. This system would also have to incorporate a means to control the cool supply air flow to compensate for varying cooling demands; be fully contained within the rack/cabinet maintaining the existing rack/cabinet footprint (size, shape, weight); maintain current shock mount effectiveness; and demonstrate reliability and performance greater than current standard fully-populated CPS racks/cabinets (REF 1).

This innovative solution would also be a more attractive alternative to large Computer Room Air Conditioning (CRAC) units, which are self-contained units used to treat sets of racks as an alternative to treating the entire room via the existing HVAC plenum system. While these units do provide energy savings when compared to using existing HVAC plenum systems, they can be very expensive and not easy to reconfigure. The Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack system should also provide improved or at least equivalent energy savings as the CRAC units, at a much lower cost.

LHA 8 architects are exploring the possibility of having a number of spaces outfitted with FI systems, which consists of an open-structures track system mounted to the deck, bulkheads and in the overhead, and an open FI HVAC System with under-floor supply plenums and overhead returns (REF2, 3, 4). By reducing the need for new computer rack foundations and HVAC ducting, the FI system allows the spaces to be reconfigured as system updates and changes occur at a significantly reduced cost.

Using the FI compatible (REF 2) Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack system in these newly outfitted compartments will allow large amounts of HVAC ducting to be eliminated. Use of the system will result in reduced acquisition cost by eliminating a lot of extra HVAC ducting for computer racks; reduce the need to rebalance the HVAC system; reduce life cycle cost by reducing reconfiguration cost; and allow late date procurement decisions.

The Small Business will develop a system to meet the goals of the topic. Modeling and simulation are encouraged to guide the development of overall prototype device design as well as to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of the proposed prototype device.

PHASE I: The company will develop a concept design for an Innovative Air Cooled Computer Rack System that meets the requirements described above. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concept can be feasibly developed into a useful product for the Navy. Feasibility will be established by component testing and analytical modeling. The small business will provide a Phase II Development Plan that addresses technical risk reduction and provides performance goals and key technical milestones.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Development Plan, the small business will develop a prototype for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in Phase II Development Plan and the Navy requirements for the Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation and testing for the different configurations of the rack. Evaluation and test results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III Development Plan to transition the technology to Navy use.

PHASE III: The company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The company will develop an Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack according to the Phase III Development Plan for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: The Improved, Flexible Infrastructure Compatible, Open-Loop Air-Cooled Computer Rack has potential for commercial application and dual use where data and computer rooms utilize HVAC plenums for cooling. Computer rooms that are cooled in such a way often have high energy consumption due to the need to cool the entire room, not just the equipment inside them. The proposed system will greatly reduce the energy consumption associated with cooling the equipment, since the cool air will be treating the equipment directly, rather than the ambient air around it.

1. Bahen, Dan. The Common Processing System (CPS) and Advanced COTS Enclosure (ACE). Global Technical Systems, 2012.

2. Devries, Richard, Andrew Levine, and William Mish. "Enabling Affordable Ships through Physical Modular Open Systems." ASNE Engineering the Total Ship, September 2008, Falls Church, VA.

3. Hubble, Keith, and Hyde, Milo. "Energy Savings from Application of Variable Speed Drive (VSD) Motor Controllers in U.S. Navy Ships." ASNE Fleet Maintenance and Modernization Symposium (FMMS), September 2010, Virginia Beach, VA.

4. "Underfloor Air Technology." 2000. Regents of the University of California. 1 March 2013

KEYWORDS: Flexible Infrastructure; Plenum HVAC System; Computer Rack Cooling; Air Cooling; Computer Rack Temperature Monitoring; Direct Cooling Air Take-off

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