Liquid Cooling Overclocked Raspberry Pi With Style

[HydroGraphix HeadQuarters] has earned his name with this one. While he is using mineral oil instead of hydro, he’s certainly done a nice job with the graphics of it. The ‘it’ in questions is an overclocked Raspberry Pi 3 in a transparent container filled with mineral oil, and with a circulating fan.

He’s had no problem running the Pi at 1.45 GHz while running a Nintendo 64 emulator, getting between 40 °C and 50 °C. The circulating fan is a five volt computer USB fan. It’s hard to tell if the oil is actually moving, but we’re pretty sure we see some doing so near the end of the video below the break.

Mineral oil is not electrically conductive, and is often used to prevent arcing between components on high voltage multiplier boards, but those components are always soldered together. If you’ve ever worked with mineral oil, you know that it creeps into every nook and cranny, making us wonder if it might work its way between some of the (non-soldered) contacts in the various USB connectors on this Raspberry Pi. Probably not, but those of us with experience with it can attest to it’s insidiousness.

We’ve seen this sort of immersion cooling done before with an Arduino but usually the board is just lowered into an open-topped container. In the video below, [HydroGraphix] shows the care he takes in constructing the case to come up with something worthy of display. The LEDs give a nice modern look. Some plastic aquarium plants, a treasure box and a few fake fish floating around would fit right in. Do you think it’s overkill? We think the slick appearance in addition to the results make it worth the effort.

Water cooling a Raspberry Pi in this way would of course short out the parts but we’ve seen it done with the water circulated in tubes, and with machined parts to physically contact the chips. And then there’s the simplest approach, inexpensive copper shims built up to make a more traditional heat sink.

48 thoughts on “Liquid Cooling Overclocked Raspberry Pi With Style

    1. So reggy, do you often spend time attempting to polish faecal material?

      That’s not a healthy thing to do, you should stop. Would be nice if you could also stop pissing over other peoples projects, while also failing to direct us all to stand in awe of YOUR latest and greatest creation.

      Unless of course your latest project WAS polishing a turd, in which case I stand corrected. Sorry that didn’t work out for you…

    1. Because when I was running the Tensorflow tutorials (https://www.tensorflow.org/get_started/) on my Raspberry Pi, it heated up the usual tiny heat sink on the processor such that I’d burn my finger if I touched it for more than an instant. Now, you could put a larger, aluminum heat sink on it, but we’re talking about neural networks here — brains. And what’s a more suitable way of cooling a brain, attaching a chunk of aluminum to the side of it, or sitting it in a glowing vat of gooey liquid? :-D

          1. Water doesn’t it does however pick up ions readily that do hence DI water being non conductive but w/ exposeure to bare metal it would pickup ions and become conductive again in a few hours if not minutes.

          2. Pure (deionized) water doesn’t conduct electricity. It’s only when things get dissolved into it and form an electrolyte that you have to worry about conductivity.

            The problem is, water is called “the universal solvent” for good reason. I don’t think it would remain deionized once you dunk a motherboard into it.

          3. DI water is a very good insulator…but only as long as it stays DI…once it manages to rip some ions off of whatever it’s coming into contact with, it starts conducting…

    1. Back in the ’60s I used to run military surplus transmitters — an ART-13 — which needed something like 20 amps 24 volts for huge transmitting tube filaments and extensive DC motor auto-tune machinery. (Frequency channels and the necessary antenna loadings were set on the ground so the combat air crew could switch channels with a simple rotary remote control. Huge motors and locking cams and gears.)

      The only full wave bridge I could find cheap, even on a big aluminum heat sink, was only rated for 1/4 the needed current, so I took the four diodes off the heat sink (it was too big to fit), soldered them up with wires, and dropped the whole bridge into a mayonnaise jar of mineral oil. It got warm, but the setup worked for many years. All the connections in the jar were soldered, of course.

    2. Never seen it in the wild though. Aside from the plumbing and extra weight on the floor, it’d be a nightmare to interact with the servers (say to replace a cable) and drives would need to stay air cooled.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to try it as it’d silence all those darned server fans but I think I’d end up covered in oil as I interact with servers way too much.

      (I previously oil immersion cooled a desktop and that got everywhere including the floorboards and every peripheral)

        1. Oh I’m not saying disconnect the fans, then the server would complain thinking its fans had failed.

          Rather, the fans spin slower in oil and the oil acts as sound insulation. An oil immersion system even with fans running will only be as loud as whatever remains in open air (HDDs, maybe pump, fans on the radiator).

    1. Not sure you’ll need it for a raspberry pi, it’s now got plenty of surface area using the outside of the tank. When I dunked my PC it was necessary though, 250W flowing into 21 lites of oil meant it could last a few hours from cold before the oil itself hit 80C with components being hotter.

    2. If you have airflow it would transfer to the sides which have a larger area. I’m not sure how effectively it will do that, but I doubt there is enough power here to warm the oil anyway.

  1. An interesting experiment. I wonder how high it can go? And if it would be worth adding a Peltier cooler?
    I think it may be an idea to flip it over run all the connectors out the base (now lid) and not have any holes in the tank. In time the oil will find a way out!

    1. Why a peltier? The raspi will likely be about 10 degrees hotter than the oil anyway.

      Now if it’s for sucking heat out of the container and keeping separation, eh, off the shelf PC watercooling parts can generally handle oil at a reduced flow rate so that’d be the most efficient way to dump heat. Oil’s also pretty viscous so you wouldn’t want to cool it down too much in any one area, if a peltier’s reaching -10C for instance the cold oil near it will have a hard time moving out of the way for warm oil to touch the peltier.

    2. Heat isn’t the issue at that clock speed, 1.5ghz is the high end on raspberry pi 3. haven’t seen anyone with 1.55ghz, it’s just too unstable, even if you keep it under 30C

  2. Cheaper (and safer to health/environment?) than Fluorinert I assume. I also think this build could use some sunken pirate treasure or other aquarium gimmick. What a fun and potentially messy project.

  3. The oil is not flowing properly. The temps should be a lot lower.

    Professor Christopher Barnatt at ExplainingComputers did an extensive test using DIY active cooling (some copper heatsinks with off the self mini fans and custom acrilic cases) and his temps at 1.4ghz were 40C or lower under heavy stress.

  4. I used to work on computers in awful conditions, air cooling with traditional sink fan setup just would not work, we simply removed the fan, and made the housing / case the heat sink. Large Billet of aluminum on CPU and other components bolted to enclosure made from cast aluminum. Not sexy but very effective. This unit was next to a deep fat fryer in a dusty environment had a fan and normal venting been used? Well I think you can imagine the result.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s