Paul Benoit produces a free source of heating by using the heat produced by computers. And so is greening the digital revolution!
The carbon footprint of data centers and household heating is reduced by nearly 75% with these digital radiators.
You have invented a heating system that recovers the waste heat generated by computer calculations. How did you come up with the idea?
I used to work in a bank where I noticed that an enormous amount of energy was used to operate the computers. At home, I had six that I’d reduced the noise on. Then a crazy idea occurred to me: if I can make them quiet and run them remotely, then I can make them into a heating system too.
Companies such as 3D animation studios, banks, universities, etc. have increasingly high computing power requirements. But they don’t necessarily have room to store the servers that supply them. They therefore have to make use of data centers. There are more and more digital data centers worldwide. Today they account for 3% of global electricity consumption and this number is doubling every five years. There will come a time when we will be struggling to meet this exponential demand for computing power. So I developed the Q.rad. It’s a digital radiator that contains embedded microprocessors capable of providing computing power – and the waste energy, which can be used to heat homes and offices, is also recovered...
How does it actually work?
Instead of cramming computer servers that need cooling into data centers, we distribute Q.rads in buildings and recover the heat they produce... It’s decentralized generation with a dual use for the microprocessors embedded in our digital radiators. Firstly, they generate the computing power that we sell to the companies that need it – via an Internet connection – which turns them into data centers. Secondly, and like any computer, when they work, they produce heat. This is recovered to heat the room they have been installed in. And with the money we earn by selling computing power to companies, we pay for the electricity needed to run our radiators. So it’s an ecological alternative to energy-intensive centralized data centers.
But what happens in summer? Do the Q.rads continue to provide computing power to the companies that still need it, although the heat isn’t required in the buildings?
We maintain the necessary computing power for our customers all year round. This means we seek to deploy our radiators intelligently. For example, losing heat in an empty school in the holidays is still greener than creating a new centralized data center which will have to be air-conditioned in summer.
And what’s the next step in the story?
Our radiator is now second generation. It’s sort of the smartphone of heating, with Wi-Fi and sensors to measure the quality of indoor air, alarm systems, etc. It is intended for use in smart buildings. For example we are working with residential nursing homes for the elderly, in order to install speech recognition processes, and even fall detectors. The Q.rad is equipped with a wireless charging system which interests the hospitality sector in particular. We want to continue developing uses in order to create new experiences. The computing power and data center needs are there. We might as well meet them in an ecological and intelligent way.