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


actually, i cant remember where i saw it, but some techies deep froze a laptop. the results turned out to be that it ran up to 25% faster, but they said not to atempt it, because frost will form on all your hardware creating condensation, creating shorts... and you know wat happens after that
Posted by Pastryhat  on  Sun Jun 03, 2007  at  10:37 PM
Pastryhat, an interesting note. As most tech-savvy people will know the use of coolants for superconducting hardware is pretty common, especially in the field of radioastronomy; the aerial pickups and some of the computing gear is bathed in liquid nitrogen or liquid helium to increase both run speed and the sensitivity of the equipment to small signals that might be lost in resistance static.

A point brilliantly used in the end of the Bond movie "GoldenEye" when that Russian hacker though he was sooooo cool . . . Then the tanks burst and he _was_ smile

Speaking of fictional approaches, has anyone else read the Ben Bova short story "Lowering The River"? An electronics engineer is put under a Management Facilitation Acountant who once read a copy of "wired" magazine and tells him to develop a room-temperature superconductor for the company in, say, a week or two. ( Deadlines are a prime management tool and always produce results.) The engineer does - By a rather lateral method.
Posted by DFStuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Mon Jun 04, 2007  at  09:58 PM
If you guys want a bigger project you should look into an effective way at cooling the mineral oil before it goes into the case, I had talked about using a dehumidifier, since it has a cooling part on it and is easy to get.. however quite noisy so maybe something quieter?
Posted by Kenny  on  Tue Jun 05, 2007  at  10:11 AM
Is this a page for 10 year olds?
How stupid do you have to be to think oil is conductive?
Sure this Idea works and has benn done multiple times! You would have to take off all fans you moron! 4godsSake just google!
Posted by the Dude  on  Mon Jul 09, 2007  at  06:54 AM
thats constructive...
Posted by Kenny  on  Mon Jul 09, 2007  at  10:07 AM
@The Dude: STFU.

Regarding pre-cooling the oil, I am going to set up a new system using the cooling pipes of a minifridge . I will have a high-flow aquatic pump moving the oil from the PC tank to a separate reservoir with the cooling pipes in it, and then back into the PC again. It should yield a significant temperature drop.
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Sat Jul 14, 2007  at  03:09 AM
um hello if you read the forum i already did that... a mini fridge might not work as well as when i used the dehumidifier since a fridge's cooling component isn't on 24/7 just short bursts..
Posted by Kenny  on  Sat Jul 14, 2007  at  11:16 AM
No need to get your panties in a bunch there, Kenny. The cooling apparatus in a mini fridge is on as long as the temperature sensor senses it needs to cool things. Once it reaches the desired temp it shuts the pump down until it rises above that temp again. Any oil-cooled PC would produce heat as long as it is on, meaning, presumably, the pump would stay active until it was manually shut down (usually with the computer). The only concern is that mini fridge pumps aren't designed to be running 24 hours a day, they need to cool down on occasion, which is why the PC would need to be shut down when not in use, or otherwise design the apparatus in a way that the pump would shut down when the PC was in stand-by or some other low CPU usage mode.

I, too, have considered using the cold plate from a dehumidifier, but the problem is that while one end of that cold plate produces 40ish degree coldness, the other end gets incredibly warm in doing so. You would have to find some way to effectively radiate that heat without transferring any back into the oil, which is somewhat hard to do because the cold plate would presumably be submerged in the oil and thus so would the hot side. Even if it could be designed an a way that this was not so, you still have to deal with the fact that the small cooling plate would likely not be efficient enough to dissipate more heat energy than was being generated by the PC components, whereas a mini-fridge would likely have the ability to subtract more heat energy from the oil and hopefully lower the equilibrium temperature of the oil significantly enough to make it worth it.

On that note, have you given any thought to some type of air-cooled system, where the oil is run through some type of device that drops its temperature down to ambient? I get that its not the most effective thing in the world, but I'd rather have my PC running at room temperature than 140 degrees...
Posted by Bad Karma  in  Portland, OR  on  Sun Jul 15, 2007  at  05:21 AM

'Nuff said.
Posted by Ryan  on  Mon Jul 30, 2007  at  06:39 PM
High Performance Synthetic Dielectric Oil

A synthetic transparent fluorescent green dielectric fluid formulated from base chemicals so highly refined and purified that additional additives are not necessary. EDM-500's cosmetic-grade chemical formulation virtually eliminates skin irritation during use. Resists thermal degradation from high-amperage applications (withstands up to 400 amps) and offers the highest known dielectric strength of any commercially available EDM fluid. EDM-500 can be used with all types of filters; including: paper cartridge, diatomaceous earth, and edge wafer disposable cartridges.
Posted by Dtex  on  Mon Nov 12, 2007  at  06:51 PM
Power and distribution transformers are oil cooled rather than fan cooled. The oil is also a constantly replaced insulation material.

As a deaf IT person who did electrical engineering this makes perfect sense. I would use ultra pure transformer mineral oil though.

For safety I would recommend a thermal fuse in the PSU that will trip at a temperature below the flash point of the oil.

The fans in conventional computers will destroy your hearing and are a bigger safety concern.

Hint: suspend the MB in the oil tank and have rear connectors at the top.
Posted by Zagam  in  Australia  on  Thu Apr 10, 2008  at  03:51 AM
My question is what cools the oil? For example, you put oil in a pan on a stove and turn the burner on low. Wouldn't after awhile that oil heat up? So if the computer was constantly running, like a server, wouldn't the oil start heating up? I don't see this as being practical at all. I think a liquid cooling system is a much more practical thing to use. It's just a cool thing to look at, but I don't think its worth it.
Posted by Matt  in  Maryland  on  Sun May 18, 2008  at  08:12 PM
You would have to do a similar idea to liquid cooling in having a radiator to cool it down otherwise just from being open to the atmosphere and room temp it might cool the oil down as well. The idea I had before was using a dehumidifier to supercool it.
Posted by Kenny  on  Tue May 20, 2008  at  02:10 PM
Would lavender oil work??, sure would smell better, aromatherapy and quiet pc.
Posted by Adam  in  Australia  on  Thu Jun 12, 2008  at  01:10 PM
i am a truck drier and work on computers as a hobby, instead of a dehumidifer, has anyone tried a cooling unit from a 12volt cooler the one i have in my truck is a colman 12volt cooler runs about $70.00 usd the cooling unit itself looks like a large heat sink built into the lid. the top gets hot but the bottum getts down to 34degree 0r so! mounting it out side the oil would be the best aproch and using copper flex tubing woven throw the cooling side and a small pump to circulate the oil, and as far as it getting to cold couldent you power th 12volt cooler and pump off the mother board fan plug it would have a temp sensor already and turnn them on and off at the apropreate times and levels! and i have sean several postings as well on frezing the board as well the used a silicone caulking to prevent condensation build up in the circuits!
Posted by dave  in  usa  on  Thu Jul 09, 2009  at  01:37 PM
Well even if that worked, may as well just go liquid cooling. I run normal liquid cooling and i get around 28 degrees or so. Not trying to ruin your idea though. Im not sure if itd work because im not sure if those kind of coolers have a high enough rate of heat transfer. Yes it may get cold/cool but the rate of heat transfer im sure would be too low and itd just overheat.
Posted by kenny  on  Fri Jul 10, 2009  at  11:53 PM
This is old news, and true!
There are already retail oil PC's

Even a mix of oil, water and electricty I believe in the highest end model.
Which is stupid if you ask me...

An Air cooled system is cheaper and can produce the same results, just with an audible humm.
Approx 45-50dba on each High speed fan these days

These are just designed to run silently and/or OC.
Posted by Bloke28  in  The Web  on  Sat Jul 11, 2009  at  12:23 AM
I agree. The mineral oil idea and fridge ideas are interesting but most air cooled systems and a good liquid cooling system can definitely out perform them without the weight or mess
Posted by Kenny  on  Sat Jul 11, 2009  at  12:26 AM
Thanks P100 and go to work overclocking :D
Posted by burhi  on  Fri Oct 02, 2009  at  04:45 AM
this works grate i did it the downside is if you spill it you will have a hard time getting the oil out of your carpet.
Posted by sam  in  delmar  on  Thu Feb 17, 2011  at  01:32 PM
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