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Soak Your PC in Mineral Oil: Puget Systems Announces DIY Aquarium Cooling

By - Source: Tom's Hardware | B 30 comments

Been eyeballing that old aquarium in the garage (the fish long since gone) for your next extreme system mod and cooling solution? Probably not, but Puget Systems now offers kits for those of you that are interested and brave enough to venture into submerged cooling mods.

Custom PC maker, Puget Systems, has announced the availability of their DIY ‘Aquarium PC’. Puget claims that they have been running their own system for over a year with no ill effects on the hardware submerged within. Some people may cringe at the thought, but mineral oil is completely non conductive of electricity – meaning you could drop anything electronic into it and it will continue to run just fine.

Standard liquid cooling systems have nothing on this baby. Since the entire motherboard and everything attached to it gets entirely submerged into mineral oil. With the aid of a pump and external radiator, everything in the aquarium gets it share of ‘liquid cooling’. As depicted in the images, you can see that the power supply is even inside the tank. A cooler is installed on the CPU – but really all it is there for is to move the mineral oil across the fins as though it were air.

Now it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that standard fans can move air a lot easier than liquid – since liquid is heavier and denser than air, you may want to ensure that the fan on your cooler and in your PSU will stand up to the increased stress of moving liquid. All current fan manufactures of course do not have a ‘liquid’ rating on their fans, so this would be entirely a trial by fire situation. Puget was unavailable at this time for comment regarding this issue.

We can also see, according to the images anyway, that the hard drives are not contained within the tank itself – this would be for obvious reasons, anything gets inside your drive and its pretty much toast since what goes on inside them happens at a severely high degree of accuracy – something you do not want to mess with. This leaves you with eSATA for your storage option. You could however submerge solid state drives into mineral oil without issue. Keep that in mind. Your CDs and DVDs will not be going for a swim either.

Puget would also like to caution potential buyers that submerging your hardware into any liquid will obviously void your warranty – could you imagine returning a oil-logged video card to EVGA? Yeah, not going to happen. Puget also mentions that mineral oil is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to clean from your hardware – making your hardware dunking madness a one way ticket. Don’t put it in there if you don’t plan on leaving it in there.

The system can be purchased in two separate pieces, the Aquarium Module, and the Cooling Module. Puget’s site claims the cooling module is only needed for ‘high-end’ systems – this would imply that lower-end hardware would not require the massive radiator module. Since nobody buying this would be planning on dunking 8500GTs, it’s a good assumption that you will need the cooling module as well.

The Aquarium Module costs US$312.50 and the Cooling Module US$375.00. More information and parts can be found at the Puget Systems Website.

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  • 5 Hide
    DXRick , October 29, 2008 6:19 PM
    Man, for that price you would think they could throw in some fish!
  • 1 Hide
    Duncan NZ , October 29, 2008 6:26 PM
    Probably wouldn't do too well in mineral oil
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 29, 2008 6:34 PM
    actually...according to Puget's own website, their newest version of the Submerged PC does have the hard drive submerged. They did it by using a Solid State drive.
  • Display all 30 comments.
  • 1 Hide
    Shadow703793 , October 29, 2008 7:19 PM
    How is the Toms oil cooled PC now? Did you guys take it down or is it still running/being used?
  • 0 Hide
    estreetguy , October 29, 2008 7:54 PM
    symotaactually...according to Puget's own website, their newest version of the Submerged PC does have the hard drive submerged. They did it by using a Solid State drive.

    Actually...Try reading it again, he said you COULD submerge solid state drives. Jeeze, do you people even read at all ?
  • 0 Hide
    kelfen , October 29, 2008 7:59 PM
    This could turn out really good if they some how are able to solve fan promblems customize them in such a way that it would move the mineral oil as if it were air or have fans on the top ventalating the hot air out of the case. and some how bring cool air in. plus bring on the mechanical fish!!!
  • 0 Hide
    one-shot , October 29, 2008 8:12 PM
    Isn't that what he had just said? Maybe you didn't read.
  • 0 Hide
    Neog2 , October 29, 2008 9:05 PM
    This is not anything new. I remember back in highschool in the late 90's
    I did a science fair project about the usefulness of non conductive liquids, and actually had a liquid cooled machine similar to this but
    a lot less pretty.

    And I think tomshardware actually made a machine like this about two years ago.

    Cool stuff but yeah like they said. Once its submerged there
    really is no way to clean it since its oil and anything
    that would be used to clean it would probably be corrosive.
  • 0 Hide
    jerreece , October 29, 2008 10:50 PM
    So for about $700 you can have your own computer in a fish tank.......

    What stupid product in they invent next? I'd rather put $700 into system upgrades, or something more useful. a good case and some fans does well enough for my tastes.
  • 1 Hide
    smalltime0 , October 30, 2008 12:29 AM
    jerreeceSo for about $700 you can have your own computer in a fish tank .......What stupid product in they invent next? I'd rather put $700 into system upgrades, or something more useful. a good case and some fans does well enough for my tastes.

    Its more than that.
    If you are overclocking madly this is brilliant, instead of the standard water block solution for liquid cooling, all the components are submerged, thus all components are cooled. As an added bonus it should be extremely silent.

    If you do not realise the significance of a completely submerged unit you should probably not be reading these news reports.

    Of course that aquarium looks pretty standard, like something they got for $80 at the petshop, I seriously doubt its worth what they are asking.

    Now are the fans on the radiator temp controlled?
  • 1 Hide
    eklipz330 , October 30, 2008 1:10 AM
    passive cooling at its finest
  • 1 Hide
    pwolf72 , October 30, 2008 1:43 AM
    Regarding the fan issue, you don't need them when dealing with a liquid like this. They use aquarium pumps I think to move the oil for cooling already, just set up the return to point at the CPU and Video heat sinks, that will work just fine. I would not mount the power supply inside the tank though. It would be much easier to deal with the drives and external power requirements with a dry supply IMO. The fewer cables that need to snake out of this monster the better.

    One problem I have seen with using mineral oil and other viscus oil like liquids in other aplications. Depending on the environment outside of the tank you can encounter a wicking effect were the oil crawls up the cables. Even inside the cables given enough time. It is not as fast or disruptive as water in this process, but it can impact other hardware and make a mess over time.

    Also you will need to do something to cover or mitigate the smell of it, LOL. it may be fine in the garage, but try living with this in your house LOL, major wife/girlfriend agro.
  • 1 Hide
    noobe1981 , October 30, 2008 2:07 AM
    The fan issue, probably wouldn't be that big of an issue. You got to remember the mineral oil is gonna be flowing anyways *radiator, pump*. You wouldn't need to turn your fans on high. You could probably keep them on low.. And while it would still stress the fans, but I could still see them lasting a while.

    I think the biggest problem would be the smell the other stuff you could work out. Not to mention.. Something as simple as this I could build myself for probably half the price.
  • 1 Hide
    Darkk , October 30, 2008 3:01 AM
    Isn't mineral oil flammable?
  • 1 Hide
    ultim8wpn , October 30, 2008 3:23 AM
    DarkkIsn't mineral oil flammable?

    yes it is sir, those Hawaiians use it to spitfire/ and firespin XDDD
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , October 30, 2008 4:09 AM
    mineral oil has been used in power transformers for years, whoever said the smell of it is bad is right
  • 0 Hide
    sticks51412 , October 30, 2008 4:34 AM
    I have done this befor to a PC. It is pretty cool however do not do this if you ever plan to removed the PC from this. The Mineral Oil will stick on the board for good. I still have the mainboard we used to do this and there is still oil residue left over from over 5 years ago.
  • 0 Hide
    Blessedman , October 30, 2008 5:03 AM
    A very thin liquid like this would seep into a sealed bearing and wash away the grease which would contaminate the oil (I would imagine). So like another poster stated the liquid would alone would provide enough thermal dissipation.
  • 0 Hide
    cl_spdhax1 , October 30, 2008 6:02 AM
    all we need a couple of cats, and we'll have a good-ole oiled cat-fight.
  • 0 Hide
    Hellbound , October 30, 2008 6:11 AM
    If you have enough oil circulating, you wont need fans.. The oil is replacing air. Fans are pointless in a bath of oil.
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