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Alternatively, you can fill an aquarium with non-conductive mineral oil and dump all your components into it. Thatís right, just completely submerge them, fans and all. Our instincts tell us that this should be a disaster, but since the oil isnít conductive itís basically just thicker air as far as your components are concerned.
Cooling electrical equipment in oil is hardly a new concept. Electrical transformers can be cooled in oil, some supercomputers (such as the Tsubame) are oil cooled and of course high performance desktop computers can also be oil cooled.
What are the advantages though? For one thing, immersing your computer components in oil means that all components are cooled, not just the ones with passive or active heatsinks. This helps with increased longevity and stability. Oil cooling does not provide the instant and drastic drop in temperature of water cooling, but the oil has much, much more heat capacity than air or water. Once it reaches a stable operating temperature it stays there. Making it a viable cooling option for long-term computing tasks that take many hours or days. In fact some companies do data centre overhauls that convert existing server blades into oil-cooled versions. It is not however suitable for high temperature overclocking.
So the heat goes into the oil, but what then? A pump circulates the oil through a radiator which then transfers it to the air. In server environments the radiator can be outside the building, but for a desktop unit the radiator can simply go on the back of the tank.
Tank? Yes, most custom builds of oil cooled computers use watertight aquaria. Which means you can do lots of interesting things with lighting and aesthetics.
One very important issue to note is that you canít submerge DVD drives or spinning magnetic disks. These need to be in air to work. So they need isolated drive cages is you need to use them. SSDs, being electronic, are unaffected. So they can go in the tank with everything else.
Also take note that any rubber based insulation will dissolve in the oil, so make sure nothing important relies on a rubber component. Especially wire insulation.
So, to recap, these are the basic components that go into oil-cooling a PC:
The internet is filled with kit components and how-to guides for oil cooling projects. Oil cooling a PC is a completely different experience and can make for both a great conversation piece and a functional system.
Would you try oil cooling? Have you ever built a system like this? Weíd love to read your comments and see the pictures.