Professor’s Work Keeps Facebook Posts Flowing

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Facebook, Verizon, and a host of other major companies hope a UT Arlington engineer can help them discover a green remedy to a growing problem.

Mechanical and aerospace engineering Professor Dereje Agonafer is part of a National Science Foundation consortium seeking to make massive data centers more energy efficient. In the United States, running these facilities takes about 3 percent of the total national energy expenditure, enough to power a couple of large cities for a year.

Called the Industry/University Cooperative Research Center in Energy-Efficient Electronic Systems, the consortium comprises UT Arlington, Binghamton, and Villanova universities and 10 companies, including Facebook, Microsoft, General Electric, and Richardson-based CommScope, with whom Dr. Agonafer has worked on a variety of data center-related activities. Binghamton serves as the main research center for the group, with each campus having separate projects.

Facebook has pledged $50,000 toward the first year of Agonafer’s research, which focuses on cooling data centers and making air flow more economical. The pledge is renewable for up to five years. Agonafer says one reason the NSF asked UT Arlington to join the consortium is because the University has all the components to conduct this type of research: an electronic cooling lab, a nanofab facility, the Automation & Robotics Research Institute, a manufacturing assistance center, and an aerodynamics research center.

Each of the center’s academic partners has expertise in a particular area,” says Bahgat Sammakia, interim vice president for research at Binghamton University and the center’s director. “By tapping into these individual strengths, we will collectively find the answers to some of the industry’s most challenging practical problems.”

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