Reclaiming data centre waste heat nets Qarnot €35 million

In creating an almost perfectly closed heating circuit, French startup Qarnot is dramatically changing the data centre cooling game by recycling the waste heat and keeping buildings and bodies warm year round
Reclaiming data centre waste heat nets Qarnot €35 million

Calling the Parisian suburb of Montrouge home, French startup Qarnot has raised €35 million in new capital. The company has tapped into a crucial problem facing our modern world, that of the tremendous amount of excess heat given off by data centres, and is ushering it back into heating systems. 

The €35 million is comprised of a €12.5 million funding round which is aimed at the company’s commercial and technical development as well as continued research via a recruitment drive that will welcome the planned addition of 40 new employees by years end.

Additionally, a €22.5 million credit portion is included in the round that is devoted to the development of infrastructure and investment in sites where Qarnot technologies are employed. 

Participants in the raise include Société Générale Ventures, ADEME Investissement, Demeter, la Banque des Territoires, and Colam Impact.

The total package is aimed at helping the 12-year-old startup scale its efforts and increase its ability to deliver on larger projects, those that are asking for 500kWh to 3MW returns. According to the company, interest has stemmed from regions well beyond its French home to Scandinavian countries, Switzerland, and Germany.

The easiest way to understand what Qarnot is doing is to think about a liquid-cooled computing rig. Even if you’ve never built one, I’m going to guess that you understand the principle behind it, or any liquid-cooled exchange. Essentially, a coolant absorbs heat from the baseplate of a CPU (or any object needing to be cooled) as it moves through the waterblock.

Image via Intel

It then continues to move through the system and upward through one of two tubes to a radiator. The radiator exposes the liquid to air, which helps it cool, and fans attached to the radiator then move the heat away from the cooler.

Now apply this principle on a massive scale. And by massive, I mean data centres, which according to Qarnot’s estimates, consume 3 to 5 percent of global and French electricity. And with that consumption and computational power comes a tremendous amount of heat.

Siting here by a frosty window on a cold January morning, I for one, would love to have an additional bit of heat flowing across my fingertips. If only there was a way to recapture and redirect the heat pouring off the heatsinks in my laptop.

Starting to get the picture now? And yes, that’s essentially what Qarnot is doing: recapturing this waste heat and sending it back into a central heating system. Et voilà, an almost perfect closed circuit.

But what about those summer months you say? Good question, however, the folks at Qarnot have figured out this conundrum as well, as they’re employing their methodology year-round, and routing heat to boiler systems during those boiling months. Because no one likes a cold shower, do they?

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