WESTERLY — Ze Chen has already realized a lifetime of impressive achievements since his graduation from Westerly High School only five years ago.
He’s about to be awarded a Master of Science degree in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship from Brown University. In 2012, he graduated summa cum laude in engineering and nuclear engineering from the University of Rhode Island. Since graduating from high school he’s been an engineering teaching assistant at URI, a student engineer for the federal government, and, for the state nuclear science center, he designed an apparatus “to test the effectiveness of various neutron shielding materials” for a nuclear reactor.
More recently, he won $20,000 in the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce’s Rhode Island Business Plan Competition for his company, Dual Server Cooling. The company, drawing on Raytheon patents and its own engineering ingenuity, has devised a system that will chill the gargantuan computer data servers housed across the globe.
The idea for Dual Server Cooling could not come at a more critical time: Data server centers use 3 percent of the nation’s power and it costs more than $7 billion to keep the servers cool, according to Chen. His mission and that of his team at Brown is to “make cooling more efficient and use less power.”
Chen explains: “With the rise in public cloud networks and virtualization, consumers and businesses may be buying fewer PCs, but the data mobile devices and laptops produce needs to be stored somewhere. This movement of data storage and processing from multiple platforms to consolidating data centers has required the deployment of servers with ever increasing levels of computational and processing speeds. With increased processor speed and power comes more heat.”
Chen said the ability to cool these machines has been stagnant. “Because of this disparity between heat generation and the ability to cool, data centers are approaching the point where current cooling technologies are going to be unable to meet the growing cooling needs of the data center industry,” he said.
Chen said that globally, information technology spending will explode to nearly $4 trillion, with a large chunk of that devoted to data centers. He noted that data centers in the U.S. consume approximately 100 billion kilowatts of electricity. And, he said, “in 2014, companies will spend more on cooling servers than in buying them.”
His company would provide a “green solution that reduces electrical overhead, mitigates implementation costs, increases server density, and improves technological reliability,” Chen said.
“The game-changing approach, known as ‘sub-ambient cooling,’ has been built and tested for use in various defense-related applications where processing heat abatement was critical,” Chen said. “Our system has the ability to reduce cooling costs by several orders of magnitude without impacting the ‘footprint’ of existing data centers.”
Dual Server Cooling will use patents held by Raytheon, its strategic partner, which has donated more than $10,000 in “prototype components and are the holders of our suite of patents that we are licensing,” Chen said. He said he hopes to have Dual Servers Cooling “in all data centers, not just Raytheon’s.”
He said he plans to use the winnings from the Providence contest “to incorporate and establish a company, and with the wealth of knowledge at Brown University’s School of Engineering, build a prototype this summer.”
When he’s not studying, designing and engineering data center cooling systems, Chen finds time for running, cooking, volleyball and his favorite pastime, baseball.
Chen’s family includes a younger sister and brother who will attend Westerly High School and Westerly Middle School, respectively, in the fall.
Chen said he was “heavily influenced” by everything Westerly.