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Review: Armari's InertX PF5080

by Ryszard Sommefeldt on 6 September 2004, 00:00

Tags: Armari

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Introduction

Every fancied the idea of water-cooling your PC, but get put off by the water part? I don't blame you really. Even with all the care and attention in the world, it's still water, and as we all know, water and electricity don't mix. And it's not just that. The materials used in water-cooling systems often give rise to the possibility of ion transfer between metals in the loop, causing galvanic corrosion. Then there's the possibility of algae formation in your tubing and blocks, which isn't great for your cooling performance.

So what's the solution? You either abandon the idea, move a step up the ladder to a pre-assembled phase change setup like Asetek's VapoChill LightSpeed [AC], or as Armari would like you to do, don't use water but rather a replacement with none of the downsides.

Armari

Armari are a vendor we've worked with before. I used their Opteron and Xeon 1U HPCs in my evaluation of AMD's Opteron. And while I still have tinnitus from the experience, neither of the systems being the last word in silence, their experience creating powerful computer systems, most notably in their work with Cray (Ed: If you want to talk 'Extreme' (Either that or clinically challenged....) Dan the Technical Director of Armari has his own 'collection' of Cray Supercomputers!) supercomputers, has caused them to bring to market a coolant replacement for water-cooling and other extreme PC cooling systems.

InertX

InertX is Armari's brand name for a Fluorinert perfluorocarbon liquids, in the past they have used 3M as a supplier, but recently they have managed to source higher performing Perfluorocarbonates in order to offer it as a mainstream solution. Perfluorocarbons have been used for nearly four decades to cool the largest supercomputer systems, with their innate chemical properties making them suitable as replacement for water and other chemical compounds in cooling systems.

The three that Armari have brought to market all share the same basic properties. They're all similar in viscosity to water, meaning the vast majority of pump systems used in water-cooling systems will have no trouble pumping it round a closed loop or system. They all have a specific heat capacity that's suitable for moving large amounts of heat from block to heat exchanger. They're all completely non-conductive. You could submerge your mainboard in InertX and it would run happily. They're all clear, colourless and don't have any smell. They don't mix with water and they evaporate into the air safely. Finally, they don't transfer ions between differing metals in your cooling system (think copper block and aluminium heat exchanger) and they're all bad places for algae to live, so you don't have to suffer that either.

Their differences lie in their freezing and boiling points. Using good old water as a reference, which freezes at 0°C and boils at 100°C, at 1 atmosphere pressure, Armari's range of InertX coolants freeze between -108°C and -90°C depending on the variant, and boil anywhere between 80°C and 95°C, at the same pressure. So while they'll boil off before water, their freezing point makes them suitable for a wide range of extreme cooling applications.

For most, it's their inability to conduct electricity and their passive nature in terms of ion transfer that'll appeal. As a drop in replacement for water that won't kill your PC if it leaks and that won't do nasty things to your blocks, it seems pretty good.

So I snagged a sample of their most expensive variant, InertX PF5080 Pro (-108°C freezing point), which is 1KG in weight and 560ml volume, for some testing.