Mineral Oil Computer Project

“What has mineral oil got to do with computers?”

It’s a cooling technique, instead of surrounding your computer with air, you surround it in a non-conductive mineral oil, such as vegetable oil, baby oil or white mineral oil. The oil has better thermal transfer qualities than air, and systems often have pumps and radiators much in the same way water cooled computers do.

”Okay, why would you want to deep fry your computer?”

Well, back in the early 2000’s, that idea was a novel way to test the theory, but buidling one isn’t breaking new ground like it used to be, when forums were bursting with basic systems tossed into trays of vegetable oil with various grubby print-screens demonstrating that the concept could work. Eventually the concept began to get pushed into aquariums and people started using better quality oil, like white mineral oil or liquid parrafin. Thus prompting enthusiast-led companies like Pudget Systems to pioneer and commercialise the concept by developing full kits. The kits were well respected and pushed the image from home-brew bargain oddity to an exotic enclosure for high end hardware, even prompting Youtube tech giants Linus Tech to do a small build series. Pudget were able to develop four iterations across four years before having their hard work destroyed by patent trolls. With the market leader absent, progress and interest in format have been in decline.

“Okay then, so what are the pro’s and cons of doing something like this?”

Pro’s:
Five-fold efficiency in heat transfer with consistent and stable temperatures.
Anything moving is lubricated.
Anything metal looks polished.
Has a unique design and aesthetic.

Con’s:
Expensive.
Bang for buck, there are much better cooling options.
Rubbers and plastics become brittle, especially under repeated heat cycles.
Tanks are at risk of cracking or erupting in a wave of difficult-to-clean mineral oil.
Maintenance is difficult, especially when compared to air-cooled machines, due to dripping, cleaning, and certainly warranty voiding.
Any cables leading out of the machine are prone to ‘Wicking’ where the oil gently flows down and can make wired mice oily.
No off-the-shelf-kit remains and well priced required quantities of oil are hard to come by.

“You know that con’s list is much longer, right? So, why do it?”

Well, my first home-built computer; Waldorf is beginning to get a little long in the tooth. Originally being built in 2010. With only a slew of small upgrades since, the core of the computer has remained the same and covered many, many hours. Acting as a 24/7 server, a Photoshop machine and gaming showcase, Waldorf has been put through his paces and as such is ready to embark on his final chapter. Designing and building a prototype case with older hardware removes some of the apprehension, (and cost) associated with building an entirely new rig from scratch. Having an uber reliable machine is less of a factor for the project as another computer now takes care of managing editing and work roles.

”The concept sounds cool, but when’s this headache happening?”
Soon, probably near Christmas or beyond, depending on a smooth flow of parts. Each completed step will be followed by an in-depth post of each major milestone to illuminate how to complete a build like this, without a Pudget kit. and more importantly how to gather the materials in the UK as opposed to the US. The posts should follow a similar format to that as below:

Full Parts List
Acrylic Mother Board Tray: Design and Cut.
Top Enclosure: Design and Manufacture
*Bottom Enclosure: Design and Manufacture
Final Assembly.

Bottom enclosure is a design aspect that may be subject to change, but I’ll keep you along for the ride. Now all I need most crucially, is a new name…