Presently, air cooling is the most common method of thermal management in data centers. In a data center, multiple servers are housed in a rack, and the racks are arranged in rows to allow cold air entry from the front (cold aisle) and hot air exit from the back (hot aisle), in what is referred as hot-aisle-cold-aisle (HACA) arrangement. If the racks are kept in an open room space, the differential pressure between the front and back of the rack is zero. However, this may not be true for some scenarios, such as, in the case of cold aisle containment, where the cold aisle is physically separated from the hot data center room space to minimize cold and hot air mixing. For an under-provisioned case (total supplied tile air flow rate < total rack air flow rate) the pressure in the cold aisle (front of the rack) will be lower than the data center room space (back of the rack). For this case, the rack air flow rate will be lower than the case without the containment. In this paper, we will present a methodology to measure the rack air flow rate sensitivity to differential pressure across the rack. Here, we use perforated covers at the back of the racks, which results in higher back pressure (and lower rack air flow rate) and the corresponding sensitivity of rack air flow rate to the differential pressure is obtained. The influence of variation and nonuniformity in the server fan speed is investigated, and it is observed that with consideration of fan laws, one can obtain results for different average fan speeds with reasonable accuracy. The measured sensitivity can be used to determine the rack air flow rate with variation in the cold aisle pressure, which can then be used as a boundary condition in computational fluid dynamics (CFD)/rapid models for data center air flow modeling. The measured sensitivity can also be used to determine the change in rack air flow rate with the use of different types of front/back perforated doors at the rack. Here, the rack air flow rate is measured using an array of thermal anemometers, pressure is measured using a micromanometer, and the fan speed is measured using an optical tachometer.

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