Turn Folds Into Flowers, But Not With Origami

It is said that you’re not a sysadmin if you haven’t warmed up a sandwich on server. OK, it’s not widely said; we made it up, and only said it once, coincidentally enough after heating up a sandwich on a server. But we stand by the central thesis: never let a good source of excess thermal energy go to waste.

[Joseph Marlin] is in the same camp, but it’s not lunch that he’s warming up. Instead, he’s using the heat generated by his Folding@Home rig to sprout seeds for beautiful tropical flowers. A native of South Africa Strelitzia reginae, better known as the striking blue and orange Bird of Paradise flower, prefers a temperature of at least 80° F (27° C) for the two months its seeds take to sprout. With all the extra CPU cycles on a spare laptop churning out warm air, [Joseph] rigged an incubator of sorts from a cardboard box. A 3D-printed scoop snaps over the fan output on the laptop and funnels warm air into the grow chamber. This keeps the interior temperature about 15 degrees above ambient, which should be good enough for the seeds to sprout. He says that elaborations for future versions could include an Arduino and a servo-controlled shutter to regulate the temperature, which seems like a good idea.

The Bird of Paradise is a spectacular flower, but if growing beautiful things isn’t your style, such a rig could easily sprout tomatoes or peppers or get onions off to a good start. No matter what you grow, you’ll need to basics of spinning up a Folding@Home rig, which is something we can help with, of course.

13 thoughts on “Turn Folds Into Flowers, But Not With Origami

  1. Pair this with bitcoin mining, and you might have something. Actually, because of how electricity and natural gas are priced in certain places, it makes sense to use electricity for heating applications. If you did bitcoin mining to match time of use rates and then sold the heat for some manufacturing process, you might make a lot of money.

    1. I’d be curious to know, has anyone experimented with liquids that condense and evaporate near room temperature, to build a small turbine generator that could convert excess heat like this back into electricity?

  2. Reminds me of my college days. I made a cardboard duct to channel the hot air from my Pentium 4 to point the warm air forward. It was enough to quickly warm up my room, sometimes even to the point of needing to open my bedroom window to cool things off.

    Now if only there was some efficient way of storing all the excess summer heat for later use in the middle of our cold Canadian winter.

    1. I used to run a 2.8GHz Prescott P4, a 2.4GHz Northwood P4, and a 2GHz Athlon 64 Folding 24/7 in my dorm room. Yes, the Prescott is an especially good heater, at the time probably the best one that’s actually allowed in the dorm.

      There actually is a way to store the summer heat for winter heating, it’s called geothermal storage.

    2. I wanted to do just the opposite – harvest and store our Fairbanks, AK, winter cold to cool our server room for the dozen warm summer days that overwhelmed the A/C.

      1. Maybe use ice, if it’s only a sporadic issue when the AC can’t keep up. There are several schemes which use ice to store heat (well, the absence of heat but I’m not going to say “coolth”) over time.

  3. > It is said that you’re not a sysadmin if you haven’t warmed up a sandwich on server.

    I have never heard of this! But I _will_ fire up Folding@Home if it’s not already on and put the unopened can of cat food on top of the GTX 780, then reduce the 780’s fan speed to 41% so it almost hits 95C where it would start throttling anyway. Does that count? Now I shall read the article ;)

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