The recent miniaturization of electronic devices and compaction of computer systems will soon lead to data centers with power densities of the order of 300 W/ft2. At these levels, traditional thermal management techniques are unlikely to suffice. To enable the dynamic smart cooling systems necessary for future data centers, an exergetic approach based on the second law of thermodynamics has recently been proposed. However, no experimental data related to this concept is currently available. This paper discusses the development and subsequent validation of an exergy-based computer model at an instrumented data center in Palo Alto, California. The study finds that when appropriately calibrated, such a computational tool can successfully predict information about local and global thermal performance that cannot be perceived intuitively from traditional design methods. Further development of the concept has promising potential for efficient data center thermal management.

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