ASIC miners produce a lot of heat which can be harmful to the hardware. For this reason and in order to optimize efficiency of ASICs, miners install cooling systems to reduce the temperature of their mining machines.
An important trends since 2021 has been the optimization of mining operations by applying so-called immersion cooling. In this article I will have a look at this innovation in the mining industry and touch upon the following:
- What is immersion cooling
- Pro’s and con’s of immersion mining
- Important driver for increase application of immersion cooling
- Public miners that are applying immersion cooling
- Retail miners and immersion cooling
- Hydro cooled mining machines
What is Immersion Cooling?
Immersion Cooling (or liquid submersion cooling), is the submersion of computer components in dielectric coolant which is a thermally, but not electrically, conductive liquid. The heat generated is taken away by the flow of the liquid. The hot liquid is cooled by the external refrigeration facility and flowed back to the submersed hardware.
Immersion cooling is not a new idea. In 2006 the technology was used to make PC gaming more powerful. A couple of years later Green Revolution Cooling came up with the idea of open bath immersion for the high-performance computing industry. In 2010 Midas Green Technologies founded the first-ever worldwide immersion cooling commercial data centre.
Conventionally, the temperature of miners are regulated by fans, ventilation, and air conditioning. Immersion cooled mining machines do not require these. The non-conductive fluid is a far more effective cooling medium than air. Therefore the miners can run at a higher speed without getting overheated, increasing the power efficiency which in turn results in higher TH/s.
Pro’s and Con’s of Immersion Mining
There are several benefits to immersion mining compared to air cooled mining.
Improved efficiency of the mining machine: Miners can achieve higher levels of hashrate because they don’t run as hot as air cooled miners when increasing the power. Also the fans used in air cooled miners can be removed which reduces the power draw. In addition, the fans and AC units are not needed in the farm as the ambient temperature is less important.
Applying immersion cooling systems can reduce power consumption by up to 50%. As electricity is mining’s highest recurrent cost, cutting its consumption has a significant positive impact on profitability.
Longer life span of miners: The durability of the ASICs is improved by using coolant because miners can hash at an optimal temperature and temperature is easier to maintain at a stable level. In addition, the hashboards and other parts of the machines are not affected by particles in the air (like dust and sand).
Facilitates mining in relatively warm and humid climates: The better control over temperature and no exposure to the air, make it possible to operate in environments which are relatively harsh for miners. Immersion cooling is attractive for those who want to mine in warm, humid or dry, dusty and windy places.
Reduces the required space of a mining facility: Immersion baths enable you to fit more ASIC miners in smaller spaces, when comparing it to air cooled operations.
Noise Reduction: A air cooled ASIC produces a sound of 70-85 decibels (similar to a vacuum cleaner or blender). By using immersion cooling the noise is reduced significantly. This allows miners to operate at locations where otherwise they could not mine because of the noise (e.g. in a residential area).
There are also disadvantages you need to keep in mind when considering an immersion cooling operation:
Higher initial capital investment: Although it is less expensive to build an immersion facility than it was a few years ago, the initial infrastructure build out is more costly that an air cooled facility. The initial capital to set up an immersion cooling system are relatively high but operational costs are lower. Therefore, the more ASICs you run the more attractive it becomes to install an immersion cooling system.
Technicians with a greater expertise are needed: because it is an innovative technology, specific expertise is needed which is harder to come by.
Technology Curve ASICs is Flattening Out
Next to the benefits of immersion cooling described above, there is an other important driver behind the growing interest in this innovation. Since the production of the first ASICs in 2013, the development of the machines have made big steps. Mining machines are able to produce more and more hashrate, using less and less power. However, the increase in efficiency (J/Th) is flattening out and expectations are that this will continue to do so in the coming years.
For this reason miners are looking to make changes in the operational process to optimize efficiency. Immersion cooling and autotuning mining firmware are two innovations that are increasingly applied to get the most TH/s out of the machines.
Public Miners Using on Immersion Cooling
Over the last year, public miners announced that they are either looking into immersion cooling or are building out these systems already. Examples are:
Cleanspark’s immersion cooling infrastructure for its Norcross (GA) bitcoin mining facility. This includes 5940 fully-immersed Antminer S19j Pro machines, or about 600 PH/s in total. It is expected to increase efficiency of 20% or more, according to the manufacturer. They use a liquid which is 100% biodegradable and safe.
Argo Blockchain has flagship mining facility located in Texas, which is currently under construction. Phase 1 will include a 38.000 M2 data centre which support 200 MW of electricity and can host about 50.000 mining machines. The facility is designed to utilize Argo’s proprietary immersion-cooling technology. When Phase 1 is operational in Q2 2022, it will be one of the world’s largest immersion-cooled mining facilities.
Riot Blockchain has a facility in Whinstone Texas, with a a total power capacity of 750 MW. 400 MW is currently being developed. This site includes both self-mining operations and hosting operations for two institutional clients (account for about 200 MW). The Whinstone facility generates revenue derived from the fabrication and deployment of immersion-cooling technology for Bitcoin mining.
Retail Miners and Immersion Cooling
Looking at the relatively big initial investment and the technological knowledge required, it seems like immersion cooling is only attractive for bigger mining companies. However, there are many smaller farms and home miners applying immersion cooling technology to their operation. There is even a lively community of home miners that are sharing their set-ups and show what works and what doesn’t. This includes ideas on how to recapture and repurpose the heat by heating your domestic water, swimming pool and underfloor radiant heating. In the Must See section I included some video’s if you want to look into immersion cooling set-ups at home. There are also Telegram groups where they share tips & tricks like HomeMiningWizards and DCX Immersion Cooling.
Hydro Cooled Mining Machines
Inspired by the immersion cooling infrastructure used in data centres and mining farms, manufactures of ASIC miners developed water cooled mining hardware.
The hydro-cooled miner by Bitmain (the S19 XP Hydro) is essentially the S19 XP tuned for better efficiency by using a water cooler and a 5 nm chip instead of the 7 nm chips used for other Bitmain machines. The compressed chip size increases the amount of computation possible on a board, meaning more hashrate.
MicroBT, the company that manufactures the Whatsminer, also announced a water-cooled machine, the M53. At the writing of this article, the ASIC is still under development. It is expected to reach 226 TH/s at 29 J/T and operates with ultra-low sound, a +95% heat-recovery rate, and a lower failure rate.
VoskCoin Mining Farm Tour “Deeper in the mines” Season 1 Episode 1 featuring Marc of Upgradeya and his liquid cooled (immersion cooling) Bitcoin mining farm in South Carolina.
Five at-home miners discuss their immersion setups and share advice for new miners.
How much extra power does it take to overclock an S19J Pro? How many amps and watts does it use to overclock your ASIC miner.
Nico Smid born and raised in the Netherlands, living in Argentina with my family for a year now. Expert in international business development with 15 years of experience in guiding European companies doing business in the South American market and vice versa. Bought my first Bitcoin in June 2017 and went down the rabbit hole ever since. As of 2021, I started mining to create an extra income stream for my family. This triggered me to study the industry and I found it so fascinating that I created a business in the industry. I am a co-founder of Digital Mining Solutions providing various services to companies who want to mine bitcoin next to their core business. As part of my journey I decided to publish what I am learning in a weekly free newsletter called The Bitcoin Mining Block Post, focusing on market insights and trends.