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Sapphire: A Liquid That Won't Get Things Wet 843

Posted by timothy
from the it-tastes-different-though dept.
eaglebtc writes "Tuesday on Good Morning America, a representative from Tyco Fire & Security demonstrated an amazing new substance called Sapphire: a water-like fluid that does not get things wet. He filled a small fish tank with Sapphire and submerged a book, a laptop, and a flat panel TV. Both electronics were turned on when submerged; all three items came out completely unharmed. Click here for a slideshow of the demonstration. The official name for Sapphire is actually Novec 1230. Read about it here (PDF). Tyco sees practical applications of Sapphire in fire extinguisher systems for museums and libraries. By the same token of practicality, regular readers of Slashdot probably have something else in mind: total-immersion watercooling. Just think of the possibilities!"
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Sapphire: A Liquid That Won't Get Things Wet

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  • "Water"-cooling (Score:5, Informative)

    by Liselle (684663) * <slashdot@lis[ ]e.net ['ell' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:42PM (#8861658) Journal
    Offtopic, but the submitter opened the door: according to their specs sheet [mmm.com] (PDF warning), this stuff has a boiling point of 49.2C (120.6F). Processors burn hotter than that, how useful would it still be for cooling purposes if it were a gas? I also have to wonder what the long-term effects of exposure would be... it's one thing to dunk a laptop for a few seconds, it's something else entirely to have it swimming all day long. At least your machine would never catch on fire.

    They might have some information there about how well the stuff will conduct heat, but I got a lousy grade in Chemistry, so I'll leave it to the experts. ;)
    • Re:"Water"-cooling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by shuz (706678) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#8861760) Homepage Journal
      You could always do a cooling tower like system. The saphire boils, turns into a gas, and then in the cooling stack condensates back into a liquid. Also it should be noted that 3M has a liquid product that does the same thing as saphire and has a higher boiling point. It probably still gets things wet, which saphire aparently doesn't, but it is not electicly conductive. Its also really expensive! I think THG did an article on the stuff a few years back.
    • Re:"Water"-cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

      by stereoroid (234317) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#8861764) Homepage Journal

      The actual usefulness of the fluid in any state depends on the specific heat capacity, which I can't see 'coz the site is /.'d ...

      Since the phase change itself is be a major energy-absorber, that could be very helpful indeed as long as fresh condensed fluid comes in after a radiator of some sort.

      • Specs Data (Score:5, Informative)

        by Liselle (684663) * <slashdot@lis[ ]e.net ['ell' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:52PM (#8861847) Journal
        Here, I pulled it before /. nuked the site:
        Chemical Formula CF3CF2C(O)CF(CF3)2
        Molecular Weight 316.04
        Boiling Point @ 1 atm 49.2&#176;C (120.6&#176;F)
        Freezing Point -108.0&#176;C (-162.4&#176;F)
        Critical Temperature 168.7&#176;C (335.6&#176;F)
        Critical Pressure 18.65 bar (270.44 psi)
        Critical Volume 494.5 cc/mole (0.0251 ft3/lbm)
        Critical Density 639.1 kg/m3 (39.91 lbm/ft3)
        Density, Sat. Liquid 1.60 g/ml (99.9 lbm/ft3)
        Density, Gas @ 1 atm 0.0136 g/ml (0.851 lbm/ft3)
        Specific Volume, Gas @ 1 atm 0.0733 m3/kg (1.175 ft3/lb)
        Specific Heat, Liquid 1.103 kJ/kg&#176;C (0.2634 BTU/lb&#176;F)
        Specific Heat, Vapor @ 1 atm 0.891 kJ/kg&#176;C (0.2127 BTU/lb&#176;F)
        Heat of Vaporization @ boiling point 88.0 kJ/kg (37.9 BTU/lb)
        Liquid Viscosity @ 0&#176;C/25&#176;C 0.56/0.39 centistokes
        Solubility of Water in Novec 1230 Fluid <0.001 % by wt.
        Vapor Pressure 0.404 bar (5.85 psig)
        Relative Dielectric Strength, 1 atm (N2=1.0) 2.3
        • Vapor Pressure (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ka9dgx (72702) * on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:10PM (#8862104) Homepage Journal
          You WILL breath this stuff if its in an open container. Give it long enough, and it'll reach an equilibrium nearly 40% of the atmosphere in an enclosed space. (I.E. an indoor room with low ventilation)

          I wouldn't want to breath this stuff any more than I want to inhale octane, or anything else.

          --Mike--

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:20PM (#8862225)
            I wouldn't want to breath this stuff any more than I want to inhale octane, or anything else.

            I think it's best to inhale at least something; I find an Oxygen/Nitrogen mix works well for me YMMV.
    • Re:"Water"-cooling (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rangek (16645) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:49PM (#8861773)
      this stuff has a boiling point of 49.2C (120.6F). Processors burn hotter than that

      Not if they are cooled. The real question is what is this stuff's heat capacity and thermal conductivity. (I.e., how much heat can I stuff in to a given mass of this substance, while staying below a certain temperature (like 49C) and how quickly can I suck it up and push it out?)

    • by Dr. Bent (533421) <ben&int,com> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:53PM (#8861860) Homepage
      this stuff has a boiling point of 49.2C (120.6F). Processors burn hotter than that, how useful would it still be for cooling purposes if it were a gas?

      So you pump the substance in a liquid state over the processor, the heat boils it and it turns to a gas, taking much of the heat along with it. The gas passes through a small turbine, which generates electricity to power a peltier cooler, attached to a condensing tank. That cools the gas down to liquid state again, and the liquid is fed back into the system.

      I call it the Rube Goldburg 2000 cooling system. Time to file a patent!
    • Re:"Water"-cooling (Score:5, Informative)

      by WolfWithoutAClause (162946) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:57PM (#8861911) Homepage
      Provided the fluid was allowed to circulate, a boiling point at 49.2C should actually be pretty good- the fluid will give you micronucleation boiling and that will leverage the latent heat of vapourisation to carry away heat.

      You're only going to get big problems if the processor reaches about 70C- then the boiling will become film- and you'll get an insulating gas layer- (the density of the gas is almost 100x lower than the liquid- and the thermal coefficient is much the same), so shortly after that your processor will fail (hopefully just the thermal protection kicking in, but don't mess with this stuff if you have an early AMD :-) ).

      One good thing about this fluid is that you can refrigerate it down to -100C with it still being a liquid. That's very nice for overclocking purposes.

    • by CrystalFalcon (233559) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:10PM (#8862103) Homepage
      They might have some information there about how well the stuff will conduct heat, but I got a lousy grade in Chemistry, so I'll leave it to the experts. ;)

      A liquid conducts heat EXTREMELY well. You're thinking in terms of a solid, where atoms are fixed and have to transfer energy to each other. However, in a liquid, if one portion of the liquid is heated, this creates a stream of molecules in the liquid to disperse the heat. The heated molecules will actively move away from the heat source, giving room to cooler liquid molecules, which is a hell of a lot more efficient than normal solid-state heat conductivity.

      Additionally, it has an heat capacitivity of about 1.1 kJ/kg/degree C, which compares to 4.2 for water. This means that 1.1 kJ (1.1 kW for one second) will heat one kilogram of the stuff one degree Celsius.

      One can use this number for some interesting math. A normal box draws maybe 250W, all of which becomes heat. The density of the stuff is 160% of water's. I guesstimate that my tower will hold about twelve liters of water, or about 20 kg of this stuff.

      (Note the scientifically correct notation "this stuff".)

      Anyway, 20 kg exposed to 250W means that this stuff will heat by 0.75 degrees C every minute if the heat is not dissipated. Assuming a room temperature of 25 deg C, and an electronics-critical point of 45 deg C (the upper bound of operating temperature for some things I've seen; hell, some even have 40 tops), we have a span of 20 degrees, or about 30 minutes of operation until components are out of spec in their operating environment.

      Again, this assumes that no heat is dissipated. A miditower probably has about 0.5 to 0.75 square meters of dissipating surface, with good heat transfer from this stuff inside.

      Anybody knows if hard drives are built to operate immersed in liquid? :-)
    • Re:"Water"-cooling (Score:5, Interesting)

      by kcdoodle (754976) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:23PM (#8862272)
      A good cooling setup would have enough flow to keep the liquid from boiling.

      With a high enough recirculation flow rate, any boiling the would take place would be at the chip. Small bubbles would form and be swept away by the fluid flow.

      This process is called "Nucleate Boiling" and is the best heat transfer method there is. The latent heat of vaporization is absorbed by the liquid in it's phase change to a gas. Then the tiny gas bubbles are swept away by the fluid flow and the gas bubbles collapse, giving their latent heat to the surrounding fluid. This heat is later removed by the cooling radiator at the other end.

      As long as the bulk temperature of the fluid stays well below the boiling point and the fluid flow is sufficent to strip the small bubbles that form on the heat source surface, this is really the best setup imaginable!

      I live the greatest adventure anyone could want -- Tosk the Hunted.
  • by grub (11606) <slashdot@grub.net> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:42PM (#8861665) Homepage Journal

    [...] a total flooding clean agent, which serves as an effective halon replacement.

    So, in other words, a server room full of "Sapphire" will kill us just as fast as a server room full of Halon? That and the added entertainment of watching lifeless geeks float around behind the room's glass wall? My PHB will likely be faxing Tyco a P.O. this afternoon!
  • Great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Rapid Home Offer (770408) * on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:44PM (#8861684) Homepage Journal
    Now I don't have to rub myself with ducks before I go swimming!
  • by demonic-halo (652519) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:44PM (#8861692)
    Perhaps I'll use it to fake my death by submerging myself in a bath tub full of it, then dropping a hair dryer into the tub and video tape the whole thing.

  • Fluorocarbons (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BWJones (18351) * on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:45PM (#8861696) Homepage Journal
    Hmmmm. This sounds like the fluorocarbons that we used to bathe the insides of Cray supercomputers with. They were pretty cool with little windows that one could look in and see "waterfalls" of fluorocarbon flowing over the circuitboards and components to keep them cool.

    Of course we had to have an entire floor below us dedicated to refrigeration, but hey. Governments can afford this kind of stuff.

    • Fluorinert (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Skyshadow (508) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:56PM (#8861900) Homepage
      I was in intern at the Chippewa Falls offices of Cray (well, SGI, but we all called it Cray) back in 1999.

      I seem to remember hearing that the fluorinert they cooled the processors with was perfectly safe unless turned into a gas, in which case it was roughly as toxic as mustard gas. So, if there was ever an electrical fault in one of the machines that caused the coolant to boil off, there was a distinct possibility that you'd end up with a few dead operators.

      Can anyone confirm/deny this? Actually, don't deny -- this is one of my best geek stories.

      • Re:Fluorinert (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:06PM (#8862039)
        MSDS for Fluorinert [sisweb.com]. All it says is avoid prolonged exposure to vaporous Fluorinert
      • Re:Fluorinert (Score:4, Insightful)

        by khrtt (701691) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:05PM (#8862731)
        Non-toxic fluorocarbons often generate nasty thermal decomposition products. Mustard gas is a bad example, what you would get is a lot more like phosgene. Burn enough refrigerant, or just teflon in an open flame, and you will die.

        They coat kitchen utensils with teflon, and it releases a small amount of phosgene into your kitchen atmosphere every time you ruin a cooking pan. Not enough to kill you, but the effects of phosgene are cumulative. I suppose this feature of teflon complements other natural selection mechanizms against forgetful people.
  • Pricey (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Brento (26177) * <brentoNO@SPAMbrentozar.com> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:45PM (#8861698) Homepage
    If they're targeting it for fire prevention applications, not industrial cooling, then you can bet it's pretty pricey.

    After all, 3M's not stupid: they price things correctly. These are the guys behind the Post-It Note.
  • Finally... (Score:5, Funny)

    by jlowery (47102) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:46PM (#8861710)
    Now I can give my cat a bath.
  • Ted Kennedy (Score:5, Funny)

    by AtariAmarok (451306) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:46PM (#8861712)
    If they could make this available on Cape Cod, Ted Kennedy would not have to worry about explaining his drenched suits after he goes driving.
  • Freezing temperature (Score:3, Informative)

    by akaina (472254) * on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:46PM (#8861722) Journal
    A very interesting note is that Saphire/Novec 1230 has a freezing point at -162.4*F according to 3M's white paper
  • Distilled Water? (Score:3, Informative)

    by tvh2k (738947) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:46PM (#8861729)
    Wouldn't distilled water work just fine for total-submergion water cooling? After all, it's the ions in water that make it a conductor, correct?
  • by Rorschach1 (174480) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:47PM (#8861737) Homepage
    Forget water that doesn't get stuff wet.

    What we need is fire that doesn't burn stuff.
  • by detritus` (32392) * <awitzke@we[ ]so.org ['say' in gap]> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:47PM (#8861738) Homepage Journal
    Sorry to say but this wont be a very good immersion cooling solution, the heat capacity of this stuff is WAY less than water, at least according to the info i could find on it. As well the toxicity is not something you'd want to be exposed to on a daily basis, i just feel sorry for that poor guy on TV who was blithely sticking his hands into the tank of this stuff and such, hope he doesnt need his liver for anything if he does this sort of thing on a regular basis.
    • by sacremon (244448) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:04PM (#8862017)
      In addition the stuff is photolytic by UV light. The PDF states the stuff would be expected to last about five days when exposed to the atmosphere. Fluorescent lights put out a fair amount of UV, so if it were used for cooling, it would have to be a well-sealed opaque tank.
  • Uh.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hookedup (630460) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#8861754)
    Why give a new substance the name of an older substance?
  • by ShdwStkr (454413) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#8861761)
    how to you clean it up? Or pick it up? Say, after it's been used to put out a fire? Or does some 'special' cloth absorb it?

    -j
    • by Himring (646324) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:08PM (#8862082) Homepage Journal
      how to you clean it up? Or pick it up? Say, after it's been used to put out a fire? Or does some 'special' cloth absorb it?

      You use a wetvac, no, wait....
    • by lukewarmfusion (726141) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:08PM (#8862085) Homepage Journal
      Kinda like the old "If nothing sticks to Teflon, how does Teflon stick to the pan?"

      I expect that a draining system would be the best way...
    • by Uninvited Guest (237316) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:11PM (#8862118)
      Rats, I spilled some. Well, I'll just use a towel to...
      Hold on there, this is taking longer than...
      No matter, I'll just get the mop and...
      Sponge? No...
      Paper towels? No...
      Hazmat pellets? No...

      I may be here awhile.
    • Evaporation... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Benm78 (646948) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:20PM (#8862220) Homepage
      Take a look at these specs:

      Boiling Point @ 1 atm 49.2 C
      Heat of Vaporization @ boiling point 88.0 kJ/kg
      Vapor Pressure 0.404 bar

      This is a liquid that will readily evaporate (a little slower than ether would). If a limited quanitity is used (such as in a hand-held extinguisher), it will probably evaporate before you get the chance to clean it up.

      The article also states that the LC50 is over 10% by volume, which tells this substance is probably not very dangerous, unless specific medical problems arise.

      As it seems to be safe to the atmosphere as well, i guess the 'plan' is to just let it sit there and evaporate.

      This may sound dangerous, but we do the same with CO2 - which is more lethal to anyone entering the room and possibly to the environment (global warming) as well.

  • by rsidd (6328) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:48PM (#8861766)
    Mercury. May not be a good idea to submerge electronics in it though. And it's expensive, and toxic.
  • Tyco? (Score:4, Funny)

    by sulli (195030) * on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:49PM (#8861776) Journal
    Does this mean that the liquid will be pissed out [thesmokinggun.com] by an ice sculpture of David?
  • by thestarz (719386) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:50PM (#8861783)
    "I can't believe it's not water."
  • Fluorinert (Score:5, Informative)

    by Winter (87716) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @12:50PM (#8861799)
    This is of course not the first liquid that does not cause harm to electronics, and can be used for total immersion water cooling. Fluorinert (3m) [3m.com] has been around for a while. One version of it is(was) also used for liquid breething deep diving (same as used on "The Abyss").
  • How is that new? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Eric Smith (4379) * <eric@brouhaha. c o m> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:03PM (#8861995) Homepage Journal
    Fluorinert [3m.com] does the same thing, and it's been around for many years. That's what was used in some Cray machines.
  • by tony1c (610261) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:06PM (#8862041) Journal
    Hopefully this will work out better than their previous product "The Towel That Won't Get Things Dry".
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:08PM (#8862081)
    >"Making bits hard to copy is like making water not wet..." - Bruce Schneier

    Shit, here goes another argument against DRM.

  • by lhaeh (463179) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:17PM (#8862198)
    Not for long anyways, heres the rundown of tryed and failed experments:

    -immersion in tap water: its conductive, one person was stupid enough to try this on his shiny new system, lets just say the power supply did somehting intersting.....

    -immersion in distilled/de-ionised water: it gets contaminated by the computer and becoms slightily conductive, all the traces corrode.

    -immersion in mineral oil: works for a few days but then stopped working with no obvious damage. Probily the capacitors soaked up the oil and that changed their electrical properites.

    So theonly this stuff will work is if you use some kind os sealent on the board around the capicators and that might not even work...
  • Finally! (Score:4, Informative)

    by dj245 (732906) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:36PM (#8862405) Homepage
    Finally the development "A Liquid That Won't Get Things Wet" is complete and it can join the ranks of the pedigree of advanced fluids such as Liquid that you can immerse running computers in [fnal.gov] and Liquid you can breathe in [scienceweb.org]

    But when will we have "Liquid you can drink and not be accused of modding on crack"?

  • by Aumaden (598628) <Devon DOT C DOT Miller AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @01:48PM (#8862555) Journal
    Since the book came out dry, it would appear that paper cannot absorb Saphire. Given that, how do you clean it up? It's not always convenient, or even possible, to turn the heat up to 120.6F.
  • by ChrisMaple (607946) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:00PM (#8862679)
    Advantages: density 1.6X water, specific heat ~1/4 water. Disadvantages: evaporates easily, expensive. Unknown: Probably not good to breath for a long time, probably won't support mold/fungus growth.
  • Total sub (Score:4, Interesting)

    by JDizzy (85499) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:23PM (#8862904) Homepage Journal
    Why would I use saphire, which is probably very expensive to appropriate, when I could just use mineral oil to do the same exact thing more cheaply? For those that are not aware, mineral oil doesn't conduct electricity either, although it *does* get things "wet". To be fair so does saphire, but the way it touches a surface is different, not unlike the way teflon touches things in an inert way. From what I hear saphire was invented for clean-room fire situations like at a data-center full of computers. This stuff will add an extra notch in the 99.9% uptime of any facility who has it.
  • Futurama... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sophrosyne (630428) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:28PM (#8862951) Homepage
    Here is a possibility, we take celebrity heads, put them in saphire, so that in the future everyone can enjoy their wisdom, and entertaining abilities.
  • by bl8n8r (649187) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @02:31PM (#8862984)
    Until people started dieing off from being exposed to it. I think R-22 refrigerant has the same wonderful properties.
  • by tyrione (134248) on Wednesday April 14, 2004 @03:12PM (#8863341) Homepage

    Being a Mechanical Engineering by training I used this technology back in early 1990s while doing my undergraduate degree at Washington State University.

    It is expensive as hell (at the time it was expensive).

    It is by no means a new break through, unless they are considering the barrier of entry being no longer cost prohibitive as a break through.

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