The Oil Computer

Markus Leonhardt has come up with an ingenious way to cool his computer. He immerses the entire thing in vegetable oil:

Markus Leonhardt has taken the shortest route possible to liquid cooling.
1. throw motherboard in fish tank
2. cover in vegetable oil
3. there is no step 3
Markus has been using this system for over a year. it is quiet and is cooled by the still functional fans circulating the oil. he has swapped components and even successfully used pulled hardware in other pcs.

This just boggles my mind. Wouldn't immersing your computer in vegetable oil short circuit it, or something like that? I also would have thought it would overload the fan motors. There are color pictures of the Oil Computer here, as well as more description, though most of it is in German. (via Reality Carnival)


Posted on Thu May 12, 2005


Yeah this is real, but you use mineral oil not veg oil as stated before. I did this myself in 99-01 with an old (Well not that old at the time) Celeron 400.

I got the idea from this site:
Posted by Mustard  on  Tue Sep 06, 2005  at  03:35 AM
Actully it does work. Olive oil doesn't conduct..
Posted by Caboose Kid  on  Wed Sep 21, 2005  at  01:13 PM
For all non-believers:
set up a bowl with tabwater
set up a bowl with oil

buy yourrself a voltmeter, wires, battery, lightbulb (small one)

make a circuit with the bulb, voltmeter, wires and battery

leave two wires unconnected
close the circuit by placing the wire-ends in the water, LET THEM NOT TOUCH EACH OTHER!

watch your volt-meter

add salt to the water (1 spoon or so), stire the water

step 4, but with oil

redo step 5

conclusion: oil does not short-circuit
conclusion 2: oil is an insulator
conclusion 3: added salt in the water = lover insulation (=higher conduction)

WARNING do not try this with ac homepower! you get killed or wounded!
Posted by nilis  in  Holland  on  Mon Oct 17, 2005  at  03:22 AM
Can anyone say: Science Project? I've tried this a time or two before with older systems (K6 crap). For my upcoming Junior science fair, I'm going to build my old P4 system into a fish tank. I'll use mineral oil and go all out with the fake aquatic plants and fake fish/ light kits. Woot.
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Sat Nov 05, 2005  at  01:01 AM
Posted by I_Smell_Tuna  in  Charleston  on  Wed Dec 14, 2005  at  09:42 PM
how about some kind of adaptor that lets you put
your processor off your mother bord then you could cool it all sorts of ways!
Posted by inuyasha  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  10:41 AM
ITS DONE!!! I built my Oil PC! I'll post pics on my homepage, and post that addy here as soon as I can find my digicam. Here are the stats:

1800 mhz Pentium 4
Nvidia Geforce 4 MX420 64 meg video card
256 M/bytes PC2700 DDR RAM
And a measly 6.2 gig hard drive which has just barely enough space for Windows XP Professional and some proggies like winamp and some good MP3s.
No oil yet, waiting a couple of weeks until my HS science fair to fill it up, but it looks really trippy.
Posted by Bad Karma  on  Tue Jan 10, 2006  at  04:30 PM
Hey. The thing works. But it works WITHOUT any fans. To do this oil tank REMOVE ALL FANS. There is no need for fans with oil.
Posted by OperatorIV  in  Brazil  on  Wed Jan 11, 2006  at  05:31 PM
Besides, assuming the fans don't burn out from the resistance first, wouldn't they just turn oil into vaseline or margarine?
Posted by PolarBoy  on  Mon Jan 23, 2006  at  12:32 PM
I wonder what he was thinking as he was pouring a bottle of cooking oil all over his new motherboard...
Posted by dan  in  Nashua, NH  on  Tue Jan 31, 2006  at  02:11 PM
im pretty sure this is wat he wrote in his journal that nite

dear diary,
i got high today for the first time, it was fun and then i noticed my pc was running very loudly, well of course me being high made me very irratated. so i went to the kitchen to get somethin to eat, remember im high. i grabbed random things and returned to the computer. i grabbed wat i thought was a 2 liter of soda i of course soon found out wat it was, and dropped the bottle, uh oh oils not for computers. but then i noticed it was still runing i of course thought this was entirely possible so i ran to the local walmart, literally ran. i bout a fish tank and oil, i was set for this expiriment. i put all my computer stuff in the tank except for the cd-rom drive and psu then poored in the oil the computer was still working. i thought i was a genious. now as i look back, that took a hella long time to clean up and i never did eat anything.

this was of course in german
Posted by nate  on  Thu Feb 09, 2006  at  08:52 PM
Oil for the most part is NOT conductive, so the computer will not short out. But, you would want to find out which oil to use as well. Technically water is not conductive either, the contaminants in the water (salts, minerals ...etc) are what the electrons travel on. SO! if u had a completely uncontaminated circuit you could submerge it in deionized water and get the same effect (of course any particles of material that flake off of the circuit will cause trouble.
Posted by anon  on  Wed Feb 22, 2006  at  07:01 PM
Also, deionized H20 is constantly searching for electrons to fill its valence level. Electrical current will cause the water to become charged (ionized) over a period of time. LIke you said, any mineral deposits on the board would further contaminate the water, decreasing its dielectric strength significantly. H20 is very impractical. Even if you could run the 100% of the water through a redistiller in a constant cycle, I doubt you could filter it enough to remove the risk of a short completely, and it would obviously be very expensive. Technically, ethanol isn't conductive. Of course, running 120 VAC through ethanol would result in an explosion or fire of decent size. Also not recommended. Your best bet would be something like super-refined oil (mineral oil) because it has been broken down and refined so much that its hydrocarbon chains won't break down, unlike cheaper oils (cooking, vegetable, baby oils) which cause raunchy smells and high viscosity. Mineral oil is also, at least relatively, inexpensive. You can buy it by the gallon at a hardware store or through chemical suppliers, for more or less $30.00 a gallon. Depending on your budget, you could also go with something that isn't oil at all, but rather an industrial grade superconducting fluid for capacitors or transformer units. Transformer oils run about $150.00 per gallon for the cheapest, recycled stuff, and upwards of $450.00 a gallon for the top notch stuff. I wish I could drop some names, but they escape me at the moment.

Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland OR  on  Wed Feb 22, 2006  at  11:33 PM
is it possible that i could just throw my laptop in olive oil? that would be quite the fun and this thing has overheating problems...
Posted by Patt  in  australia  on  Thu Mar 02, 2006  at  01:15 AM
No, you can't. Here's why: 1) the hard drive on a laptop connects directly to the laptop's motherboard. On a regular PC, the hard drive interfaces via a cable, so the hard drive can be placed out of the oil. Because you are submerging the board, you would have to have the hard drive submerged as well, and you can't do that because it would ruin the drive.

2) Unless you were using an external keyboard and mouse, your keyboard would get junked up pretty fast from the oil.

3) Just because a PC is in oil doesn't mean it doesn't still need its heatsinks and fans. With a laptop, the heatsink and more specifically the fan are much weaker than those of a desktop. The fan would burn up rather quickly and you would have no circulation, causing your laptop to overheat.

4) Unless you physically removed all of the laptop casing, you would do MORE damage to your laptop than good by submerging it. Think about it, if you have a big fish tank with several gallons of oil, the heat is relatively evenly distributed, and because of the sheer amount of oil, the oil can effectively radiate that heat. If you were just submerging a laptop with its casing intact, the oil would fill the case, the heat from the components would transfer into the oil but have no way to escape efficiently, so it would continue to get hotter until the oil temperature equaled the temperatures of the compoenents, which would continue to get hotter until they burned out. Without adequate circulation, oil computers of any type, laptop or otherwise, are planned disasters.

Hope this offers some insight. If you have any questions, just write back to this board or direct any emails to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) and I will help you out as best as I can. Oil PCs are great, I am typing this on one of mine right now....
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Thu Mar 02, 2006  at  06:26 PM
Ummm, I think he was kidding, thanks for the info though!
Posted by Brandon  on  Fri Mar 24, 2006  at  01:20 PM
I had the idea to make a case which would be as small as possible, possibly 12 inches by 16 by 6 and immerse my motherboard, processor, video card, and power supply. Then I want to take this further and put a pump right above the processor, pumping it to a car's heater core with one fan cooling it, then have it pumped back into the case, underneath the motherboard. This would be very cheap since the plexiglass isnt much, mineral oil who knows, heater core about 10 dollars and pump 10 dollars on ebay. any thoughts? I would be pretty confident at it going below zero with that setup, just not sure how far below..
Posted by kenny  on  Tue May 02, 2006  at  10:17 AM
I've read about this before. There are numerous comments about fans burning up--yes, they would. You can't use fans in such a system. You use big heat sinks but no fans on them--remember, oil cools far better than air.
Posted by Loren  in  Las Vegas, Nevada  on  Wed May 10, 2006  at  10:32 PM
ashley the stuff they put in crays is made by 3m, im trying to find out how much it costs per gallon but from what ive read it sounds expensive, its called FC7100 but i cant find the price for it, ive heard good things about Fluorinert also by 3m.
Posted by Pablo HAssan  on  Fri Jun 02, 2006  at  10:19 PM
Flourinert is just over $545.00 new for 14 pounds of it, which is like 2 gallons. You can find it for about $179.00 per gallon, used. Not exactly practical.
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  12:35 AM
ok, ive just built myself a plexiglass case, been getting the leaks out.. then im modifying my plan and am going to run the pumped mineral oil out and into a very modified dehumidifier, just on the cold core obviously. This should make it supercooled mineral oil cheese
Posted by kenny  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  06:25 AM
Wow, kenny, that is an awesome idea. The cooling core in a dehumidifier is a reallly cheap way to get things cold. If you dont have any objections, I'd like to try this one out myself as well!
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  02:50 PM
the trick right now is.. if you know how a dehumidifier works.. it has a hot and cold coil. For my purpose the hot coil serves as a hinderence so I am going to try and make this site not work... dunno how yet, but its not attatched to the cold side from the copper piping...
Posted by kenny  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  11:33 PM
go ahead and try it, if you make any breakthroughs remember it was my idea lol.. also share your results
Posted by kenny  on  Sat Jun 03, 2006  at  11:39 PM
if you go using a refrigerant and heat exchanger to cool your oil, the oil is gonna become a hell of a lot more viscous, and all the noise of the refrigerator pump, and pumping the cold thick oil!
Posted by ski  in  townsville, australia  on  Sat Jun 10, 2006  at  05:24 PM
If you use a water cooled system for the CPU and GPU and such... it is using distilled water (PURE H20) which does not conduct electricity. The ions in the water or liquid is what conducts the electricity. If you have your computer submerged in pure h20 or have a water cooling system, the ideal temperature to have is about 20-30 celcius. Overlockers love this because they are now able to run the processor and GPU at speeds not recommended by the manufacturer, because if you didnt have a water cooled system the parts would overheat and die. If your system is cooler it will allow you to run your parts harder since the heat won't be an issue for destroying them.

in answer to the guy about putting your pc in a deepfreeze, you will have to let your pc warm up before it will work properly, if all the parts are cold they wont function right (your talking like -23 celcius) and if you acumulate frost on the parts, you will most likely destroy them when it melts, don't be a fool and ask retarded questions ok?
Posted by The Tech Dork  in  Canada  on  Mon Sep 25, 2006  at  12:23 AM
I think you answered questions from the first page... Anyone have any luck on case ideas? Bad karma did you try my idea?
Posted by kenny  on  Mon Sep 25, 2006  at  06:50 AM
Nah, not yet. Hopefully soon, though. About once a month a check Craigslist for dehumidifiers and such, almost got lucky a couple of weeks ago, but it was taken before I called the guy.

I'll keep you all posted tho.
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland OR  on  Tue Sep 26, 2006  at  11:48 PM
I havent worked on mine in awhile.. had the plexiglass case built with one or two minor leaks.. using water to test for the leaks. So I have to fix that first, and my dehumidifier I accidently broke.. I realise it wasnt a good idea to try and seperate the cold and hot sides.. Theres a big pipe that carries all the gas/liquid inside, and it appears thats the only tube needed.. theres a little, what appears to be a wire on the other side, which turns out is just a skinny pipe (my guess a safety overload sortve thing) and I had cut that in attempt to seperate and had leaks and even though patching it back up.. it no longer works, big surprise. The reason why I wanted to seperate it in the first place was to make it flatter, since its sortve bulky. If you try doing what i did, you arent really allowed much room to flatten it because of the shortness of the pipe, I did however bend the big one so that instead of being located above the resivour, it was right on top of it, in a compact little form. Hopefully this is helpful in your design, and maybe will spark you to get working on it lol.
Posted by Kenny  on  Wed Sep 27, 2006  at  07:07 AM
I work in the high-voltage power industry and can confirm that oil is one of the best insulators around. it is used in the largest transformers in the world insulating up to 1 million Volts. It is used because of its insulating and cooling abilities.
Therefore, direct-immersion oil computers ist the best cooling method.
For best result use low-viscosity oil, it moves more easily by own convection. Do not use motoroil, it is too thick and not clean enough though it would work. Ask your utility for a liter or so transformer oil. It can be aggressive to your skin and eyes so be careful!
A friendlier choice is veg oil. The cheapest will do. It also is a good insulator. However, veg oils are not as stable as mineral oils. It is a good idea to change it after 6-12 months.
Dont put the computer into liquid CO2. It is so cold it can crack plastic parts and IC housing. And you definitely can't reach superconductivity, this occurs at -190 C or so and would destroy your circuitry.
Posted by thomas worzyk  in  Sweden  on  Tue Mar 06, 2007  at  07:17 AM
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