Microsoft deploys underwater data center off the coast of Scotland

Water cooling systems have been used for a long time to prevent computers from overheating, but how does it expand to huge data centers? According to Microsoft, you throw the data center to the bottom of the ocean. As the second phase of its Natick Project, the company has just installed a data center in the cold waters of the Orkney Islands of Scotland.

Cooling is one of the biggest operating costs of a data center, so companies are devising creative ways to keep technology well relaxed. Google freed its DeepMind AI from the problem, while other companies have strategically constructed facilities in cold places such as the Arctic Circle or below the Norwegian Fjords.

With Project Natick, Microsoft has been experimenting with immersing data centers in the depths of the ocean and pumping cold sea water to keep them cool. In 2015, Phase 1 of the project saw a prototype 10 feet (3 m) long submerged off the coast of California for 105 days, demonstrating the feasibility of the concept.

Phase 2 was designed to test whether the idea was practical in a logistical, environmental and economic sense. Microsoft partnered with a French marine manufacturing company called the Naval Group, which designed the hermetic cylindrical shell and adapted an underwater cooling system commonly used to work with the data center.

Known as the Northern Isles data center, the new facility is 117 feet (36 m) below the waves, 40 feet (12 m) long and contains 12 server racks loaded with a total of 864 servers . To cool them, seawater is channeled through the radiators on the back of the server’s racks, before being released back into the ocean.

The center is connected to the world through a fiber optic cable and obtains most of its power from the nearby Orkney Islands. Interestingly, 100% of the region’s energy comes from renewable sources, thanks to wind turbines, solar panels and other more experimental sources, such as tidal turbines and wave energy converters.

The team says that the ultimate goal of Project Natick is that these underwater data centers are self-sustaining, fully fueled by wind generators, waves or marine tides. By doing so, they could essentially immerse themselves near any coastal city where they are needed and provide faster Internet and cloud services.

This phase of the Natick Project will allow the team to monitor the data center of the Northern Islands during the next 12 months, monitoring their performance, energy consumption, sound, humidity and temperature. This version is designed to operate continuously there for up to five years without maintenance.

This Smart Business Card Is Actually A Stylophone

Business letters. A very low technology means to share contact details and even promote what you do. When Tim Jacobs of Mitxela, the same guy who previously impressed us by pressing a simple MIDI synthesizer on a USB connector, needed a card that reflected what he had achieved, the simple ones and the low-tech ones were not on the checklist. And so the idea of ​​the StyloCard was born.

“Printed circuit boards as a business card are a great trick. I have seen some with USB ports recorded on them, which are listed as a keyboard and then write a person’s name or upload their website. It is almost possible to build them cheap enough to deliver them as a business card, at least if you are demanding with whom you give them.”

“A couple of years ago I tried to make one for myself, but I did not want it to be useless. I wanted him to do something useful! Or at least entertain someone for more than a few seconds. I do not remember very well how the idea of ​​making a MIDI phonophone came up, but the idea was perfect. A midi controller that works, that is sufficiently unique in its reproduction feature to offer some value, while at the same time not costing more than the card would have done, since the keyboard is only a silver area on the PCB , as is the original stylophone.” says Tim Alex Jacobs

Jacobs came up with the idea of ​​including a Stylophone tone generator on a business card some years ago. His prototype recorded at home had 20 tinned keys, an ATtiny85 chip, some resistors and a USB port. Using a crocodile clip as a stylus, it worked as a MIDI Stylophone.


While he was thinking about how to incorporate a better stylus into the design, he moved on to other things and the project was put on hold until last month when Jacobs ordered the production of boards the size of a business card at an approximate price of US $ 3 each. one, including shipping costs. .

The StyloCard is exactly 1 mm thick, which would make a very weak USB connection when plugged in. Therefore, an additional USB section was added at the top of the card design. This is removed and welded over the plug in the corner at the same time that Jacobs adds the other components.

The business card with Stylophone keyboard does not have its own sound generation circuits, it simply acts as a MIDI controller for the music production software that runs on the computer to which it is connected. It is 85 mm long and 55 mm wide, with a keyboard measuring 78 mm from one side to the other.

And a crocodile clip is still used as a stylus. But it certainly does its job of representing what its creator is about. “When it comes to business cards, the goal is to show off,” joked Jacobs.

3D-printing problem used to create self-folding objects

A flat sheet of plastic (top) becomes a three-dimensional rose when heated

Cheap 3D printers often have a problem called “warping”, in which the objects they print tend to curl as they harden. Now, however, scientists have harnessed the power of deformation to create flat elements that bend in predetermined 3D shapes when heated.

The Fused Deposition Modeling (FDM) 3D printers are the most economical, and they build objects by placing a continuous filament of molten thermoplastic. Unfortunately, as the plastic cools and the residual stress is relieved, it can contract and deform.

Directed by assistant professor Lining Yao, a team from Carnegie Mellon University has developed a technique known as Thermorph, which takes advantage of this phenomenon. It uses a standard FDM printer to create flat sheets, by depositing two types of thermoplastic: one that is prone to deformation, and one that is resistant to deformation.

Depending on the way the user wants the finished folded product to have, the customized software automatically controls the speed at which the plastic prone to deformation is placed on specific areas of the sheet, in addition to controlling the order in which it is placed. deposit the two plastics. different places.

When the resulting flat and rigid sheet is placed in water warm enough to soften it (but not enough to actually melt), it will deform in the areas where the first plastic was deposited more quickly, causing it to permanently crease. those places: the faster it is deposited, the more it will fold. The direction of the fold is determined by the order in which the two plastics were placed.

So what is the point? Well, according to the university, self-folding flat materials are faster and cheaper to produce than solid 3D objects, they are also easier and less expensive to send. And although the objects created so far have been relatively small, the team believes that the technology could be expanded easily, to create flat package products that are “assembled” simply by using a heat gun.

“We believe that the general algorithm and existing material systems should eventually allow us to manufacture large, strong and self-folding objects, such as chairs, ships or even satellites,” says internal researcher Jianzhe Gu.