Nokia has been talking up its advances in base station cooling technologies for several years, as a way to differentiate itself as operators become increasingly concerned about 5G energy consumption. Now it has set up a new company called Accelsius to push its offerings more aggressively and to commercialize some of the new cooling technology emerging from its R&D arm, Nokia Bell Labs.
The new company will target data center operators as well as telecoms networks, at a time when there is rising interest in energy efficiency, both to help meet ‘green’ objectives and because of the rising cost of fuel. Nokia’s partner is venture capital and private equity player Innventure, which specializes in disruptive technology investment and has an existing partnership with Nokia to help commercialize some of the Finnish firm’s intellectual property.
Accelsius has acquired the rights to the cooling technology from Nokia and will be responsible for its further development and commercialization.
Jukka Nihtila, Nokia’s VP of patent transactions and external alliances, said: “By collaborating with Innventure, our hugely versatile cooling technology can be offered to a broad range of companies in different industries to meet the challenge of heat densities in data centers and telecom networks while lowering energy consumption.”
“This innovative technology addresses an acute market need across the entire spectrum of networking and computing sites,” said Bill Haskell, founder and CEO of Innventure. “It is positioned to disrupt the cooling industry as it exists today with flexible solutions that can be widely deployed for data centers and telecom.”
The technology provides cooling direct to the chip or other heat sources. A passive two-stage coolant circulation process enables “reliable, energy efficient heat transfer and dissipation from high density heat sources, without using pumps”.
Nokia has announced a series of energy-related innovations in recent years, many of them specifically targeting the 5G network. The firm claims that air conditioning and other cooling systems can account for over half of energy costs, far outweighing the power consumption of the base station itself. The RAN accounts for 80% of a mobile network’s overall energy usage.
Such figures drove Nokia Bell Labs to experiment with liquid cooling, given that thermal conductivity of air is 22 times lower than that of water – so liquid cooling requires only 10% of the energy used by air cooling. In 2018, it worked with Finnish operator Elisa to develop and deploy a liquid-cooled base station that claims to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 80% as well as reducing power consumption. The companies worked with energy company Efore to install the equipment in an apartment building in Finnish capital Helsinki.
Heat emitted from the base station is redirected to heat the building, lowering energy costs. Nokia Bell Labs, which developed and tested the solution, said it saw a reduction of up 80% in CO2 emissions and up to 30% in energy operating expenses, during a trial. Liquid cooling also does away with the need for air conditioning and fans, increasing the savings and lengthening base station life.
The base station was produced at Nokia’s Oulu facility in Finland and the liquid-cooled power system was developed by Efore.
The VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland evaluated the environmental impact and energy usage compared to base stations cooled by air.