The San Diego Supercomputer Center in the United States is ditching its lead-acid uninterruptible power supply (UPS) batteries for more environmentally friendly rechargeable batteries – although it is avoiding lithium-ion and opting for a new form of rechargeable alkaline.
Currently, the SDSC relies on a generator and an inverter to provide backup power. Due to environmental regulations in its home state of California, the SDSC has been unable to increase the portion of its emergency power supplied by generators. New batteries – half of which are already installed – will be a way to avoid running into this limitation.
Urban Electric Power (UEP) supplies the 5,200 batteries, which replace 20,000 pounds of lead acid. UEP founder Sanjoy Banerjee developed the technology behind the batteries while he was a professor at the City College of New York before turning it into a business proposition.
UEP’s batteries use a zinc-manganese dioxide alkaline infused with copper, bismuth and other materials, which makes them rechargeable for ten years – or possibly longer, according to the University of California, San Diego. , where the supercomputer center is located. Additionally, said SDSC Director of Research Data Services, Christine Kirkpatrick, the batteries will be able to offer managed backup power in hours rather than minutes.
“A portion of our data center is powered only by the mains and shuts down immediately in the event of a network outage,” Kirkpatrick said. The next phase of the project will add another 5,200 battery cells from UEP, which Kirkpatrick hopes will be able to support this part of the data center.
Lithium-ion batteries are by far the most common in electronics, with tiny cells in earbuds to EV batteries powering automobiles. One thing that all lithium-ion batteries have in common is the problem of heat – that they generate relatively a lot of it and are prone to burning. According to UEP, its batteries have been UL-certified as fire-rated, meaning they can be deployed in data centers without the need for bulky fire suppression systems. UEP also manufactures batteries for home and grid-scale applications.
SDSC manages supercomputing needs for its campus at the University of Cali, as well as for researchers at other UC facilities and research institutes in America and abroad. Most of SDSC’s research projects focus on issues that have societal impact, such as climate change and genomics. Previous SDSC supercomputers ranked eighth most powerful on the Top500 list of publicly known supers, while its most capable computer currently ranks 238th. ®