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Submersion System PCs - The Ultimate in Cooling

written by: Jesma•edited by: J. F. Amprimoz•updated: 6/8/2009

As if the name weren't strange enough, wait until you see a submersion cooling system PC mod. This cutting edge PC cooling design is both visually stunning, and extremely effective.

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    When it comes to cooling a PC, some hardcore benchmarkers, gamers, and enthusiasts cook up some completely insane ideas to keep their rigs icy cold. Heat is the single biggest opponent of high performance computing, and finding new and unique ways to eliminate it from the equation is the key to unlocking more power, faster speeds, and massive bragging rights. It is no wonder then, that some of these crazy schemes have been implemented. Some have worked, and others haven't. In this article we're going to take a look at one of the most interesting and outstanding cooling systems that has been thought up to date: The Submersion System.

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    What Exactly is a Submersion Cooling System?

    Once considered the cutting edge of PC cooling, submersion systems are starting to get a lot more face time than when the idea was originally tested. What exactly is a submersion system? Well, if the name gave you any ideas, they're probably spot-on. Essentially, you take all of the computer's components and submerge them in liquid! How does this not destroy all of your expensive PC parts? The liquid that you use is actually mineral oil, which is 100% non-conductive. Of course, this method hasn't been completely perfected, and there are some minor issues that prevent it from being as widely practiced as standard liquid cooling. Let's consider how this system works, and some of the problems that can arise.

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    Components of a Submersion System

    The number one issue with submersion systems is the question of what kind of "case" to use. A standard PC case is absolutely out of the question - no amount of caulking could seal one of those up. To find a case for a submersion system you have to get a bit more creative. Fish tanks are a very popular solution, and this fact has led to many aquarium inspired submersion PC mods. (It's a shame fish can't live in mineral oil).

    With a submersion system, you're also going to need a pump and a cooling device - usually a radiator, but sometimes more interesting methods are used. The pump is required in order to both circulate the oil as well as run it to the radiator. Occasionally, some sort of filter lies between the two, but most won't bother with a filter when the oil only really needs to be cleaned once a year or so. The radiators used in submersion systems are often very large and highly customized. Sometimes a rather expensive passive radiator can be used, like this Zalman.

    There is an interesting alternative to the pump and radiator method that involves using an Air Conditioning unit coil submerged along with the rest of the PC, that is reported to produce 0c temperatures (yes, freezing). This isn't well documented, is quite bulky, ugly, and expensive, but it sure does get the job done!

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    Some of the best documentation of a Submersion System mod I have found is the build that Puget Systems designed using a fish tank. It is fully detailed on their website with pics and videos.