New technology boosts energy efficiency in data centers

Thursday, Dec 19, 2019
by Catherine Zandonella, Office of the Dean for Research

Minjie Chen, an assistant professor of electrical engineering and the Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment, and his team are building a family of devices to dramatically reduce power consumption at the gigantic data centers that serve as the backbone of internet services and cloud computing.

These centers, each holding racks of computer servers, consume 90 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity each year in the United States. The video above shows how the team’s technology improves the process by which power is converted from electrical grid, which uses a 480-volt alternating current, to the 5-volt-or-lower direct current needed for central processing units (CPUs) and hard drives. In today’s data centers, this process happens at each computer, sapping about 40% of the original energy. The new device aggregates power conversion into one unit, and then distributes that power. The team estimates that they can increase the energy efficiency of the power-delivery system by 60% to 88%.

Chen's research was featured at the annual Celebrate Princeton Innovation (CPI) event in November that highlights the work of faculty and student researchers who are making discoveries and creating inventions with the potential for having broad societal impact. The gathering attracts members of the broader entrepreneurial ecosystem outside the University — such as members of the venture capital community, industry, as well as representatives from state and local governments — who come to learn about the newest University discoveries and meet the faculty and staff engaged in Princeton’s innovation initiative.

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