National University of Singapore’s (NUS) Centre for Energy Research & Technology (CERT), under its College of Design and Engineering, has entered into a partnership with data centre operator Equinix to explore technologies that enable the use of hydrogen as a green fuel source for mission-critical data centre infrastructure.
Earlier this year, NUS and Equinix signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for collaboration and the current partnership is a result of that.
According to NUS, CERT and Equinix will launch what will be the world’s first research project to compare the efficiency of proton-exchange membrane (PEM) fuel cells and fuel-flexible linear generator technologies.
PEM fuel cells are a leading contender for hydrogen energy, while fuel-flexible linear generators enable operators to easily switch between various clean fuel options including hydrogen, biogas and various renewable liquid fuels, according to an Equinix spokesperson.
The spokesperson said PEM fuel cells were becoming increasingly popular due to their ability to generate power with hydrogen and oxygen.
Some designs can also run the process in reverse to produce pure hydrogen for future use with just water and electricity.
Adoption of these technologies allows data centres to reduce carbon emissions while meeting the rising demand for data, colocation and interconnection services, the spokesperson added.
The research collaboration will involve a holistic assessment of the suitability of these technologies for tropical data centres, considering local climatic conditions, site constraints, power demand, supply chain, fuel storage capabilities as well as local regulatory policies.
CERT will conduct a comprehensive analysis of technologies identified in collaboration with Equinix, to determine the operational viability of the technologies at scale.
Based on the results, Equinix expects to develop proof-of-concept projects within its global network of data centres for real-world testing and to support incorporation into future data centre designs.
According to NUS, the Equinix and CERT partnership aims to accelerate disruptive technologies that can reduce the carbon footprint of global data centers, particularly in tropical locations.
NUS’ associate professor Lee Poh Seng, said sustainability was a “key pillar of the global economy”.
“We are keen to work with industry partners like Equinix, which is known for its sustainability efforts and provides us access to a global network of data centres that can serve as a testbed for a more accurate assessment of operational viability”, Lee who is director for CERT, said.
Green hydrogen has been identified as a viable source of sustainable energy for data centre, according to Equnix.
However, hydrogen generation on an industrial scale remains several years away from being commercially viable, making it imperative to assess and adopt alternatives even as global research and development continues, the company said in a statement.