One of the more interesting designs out of the computer industry recently has been GIGABYTE’s fish tank PC build. The concept is similar to a simple mineral oil or thermal cycling PC, however GIGABYTE doubled up on immiscible liquids by also adding a fish tank in the top half of a bifurcated system. The fish have lived in the top part for two months now, and the other liquid in the system is a 3M Novec/Fluorinert variant as we have seen about a hundred dozen times before.

What I wanted to point out about this system was not the fact it has fish, but the liquid cooling loop. Normal water cooling involves a pump and a radiator, with the radiator having lots of fins and fans to push the water through and remove the heat. For this system, GIGABYTE did it a little differently.

Instead of a radiator, GIGABYTE used thermal blocks connected to standard CPU heatsinks and fans. The result is three CPU coolers connected to thermal blocks and they take the heat away. It is an interesting idea, especially when dealing with non-traditional liquids.

For any system builders and modders out there, it would be interesting to see this done in a traditional PC.

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  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    Many years ago, some people built entirely passively cooled systems by immersing the entire system in several gallons of high grade mineral oil. Those setups (I believe they were pentium-IV PCs) seem to work quite well. Main downsides of such systems were 1. you better made triple sure that all parts are correctly installed and working because 2. anytime you needed to change anything hardware-related, you had to drain and then thoroughly degrease the MoBo and all connectors you wanted to work with. Also, any fans had to be disconnected, and yes, some care was required to not have sparks flying. That being said, the fluid they are using in this build might be worth a try for a truly silent HTPC setup. Minus the fish on top. Reply
  • The Chill Blueberry - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    But that's not mineral oil.. It's heavier than water.. Only thing I found that could have this effect is corn syrup (1.4g/cm3). But I don't know how safe it is around electronics.. and fans, pumps and such.. Maybe that's why there is no pump. Reply
  • The Chill Blueberry - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    Although it seems heavier still. nearly 1.8 to 2g/cm3 if we look at the fluid displacement. Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    That's why I find this approach so interesting! Using a chemically inert, non-flammable liquid with good heat capacity instead of mineral oil would allow one to dispense with any kind of active cooling. Remove the gimmicky fish and fish tank, use a better heat-conducting and -radiating case made from (corrugated?) aluminum with a window so I can see what's happening, and a 100% passive cooled, silent PC is very much possible. Would love to see AnandTech try, and give us a build list plus step-by-step! Reply
  • edzieba - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    High heat capacity fluid does not magically remove the need for cooling. If you;re dumping 300W of heat into your working fluid, at some point you need to sink 300W of heat to the environment (i.e. surrounding air). Thermodynamics has no free lunches! Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    Agree on the thermodynamics, but about 20-30 liters of mineral oil or an even more inert liquid in a case that allows for good radiant heat exchange works. One has to be careful to allow for good thermosyphon action, but this can work without forced air cooling if your case has enough surface and is made from a material that conducts heat well, like aluminum.Exibit A: oil-filled electric radiation heaters can comfortably handle 2000W of heat. Reply
  • edzieba - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    As the article says, it's Novec or Fluorinert. Reply
  • CaedenV - Friday, June 15, 2018 - link

    I think you are referring to pudget systems... the company still exists, but the mineral oil project seems to be dead :(
    https://www.pugetsystems.com/nav/aquarium/mATX/cus...
    Reply
  • GhostOfAnand - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    Surely this will result in three-eyed fish.

    Poor fishies. :(
    Reply
  • eastcoast_pete - Thursday, June 14, 2018 - link

    In my excitement, I overlooked the "low boiling point" part. That wouldn't work for me. Any suggestion for a more inert/non-flammable liquid that has low vapor pressure at 40-50 C? The built in the article seems to also use the water phase on top to reduce or prevent evaporation losses. Reply

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