Instructables
The following link is a tutorial on how to submerge a PC in an aquarium filled with mineral oil. The results were quite astounding considering the computer being used is a server for UT2004 and CS:S. It runs at 120 degrees F and is completely DEAD SILENT. This is a fun project, and is most likely best if you use slightly older or spare parts. If you enjoy the article/video, digg it!



The 1337 Fleet Mineral Oil PC
 
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Step 1: Gathering the Materials

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Alright, so after watching this video you must be thinking either one of two things. 1. Wow, that's really cool! -or- 2. I mean, damn, his typing is so freakin' slow! Explanation: My video capture slowed it down a bit, no idea why. Moving right along, since this is so amazing, let's first go over a few things with pretty pictures. Here are the required materials, (or the things that we just used).

Materials:

  • 5 gallon aquarium
  • 1 piece of justly fit plexi-glass
  • All standard PC components
  • Hacksaw
  • Hot glue gun
  • A lot of minutes on your cellphone (I'll explain why later)
  • 5 gallons of mineral oil (or 40 pints, which is more common to find)

Step 2: Modding the Aquarium

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So, your materials are gathered, now to the fun part, modding! (To a certain extent). First, we measured all the dimensions to gain the right aquarium, which just so happened to be a classic 5 gallon one from K-Mart. Tester happened to have a sheet of plexi-glass that was a bit longer than the motherboard, so we used that as the back plate to hold it firmly against the side of the aquarium (plus, it will look like nothing is holding the motherboard at all). We then cut it to size, with the plexi-glass touching the bottom of the aquarium. After that, we took it out and drilled 3 holes in proper holding places so that the motherboard would remain secure. From there, we took the spare plexi glass, and broke it into 4 small 1" X 1" pieces, and glued them together with a bonding liquid that was about the strength between superglue and epoxy. After waiting 10 minutes for it to dry for each layer, we had enough time to take the plastic lid that came with the aquarium to have it serve as a slightly moded bufferzone between air and oil. As shown in the image below, a hacksaw was used to cut the appropriate amount of space for the VGA, RJ-45, keyboard, mouse, etc. to be exposed for connection.

Step 3: Aquiring the Liquid Gold and Some Useless Information

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After everything was mounted snug, much cleaning was needed. I had completely forgotten that the PSU, system and CPU fans were completely caked in dust. The most difficult part was cleaning out the heatsink underneath the CPU fan. Since this is a server of mine, it has been on for roughly 2 years straight. The hard drive alone has basically been on 9 years; good old Compaq, wish they were as good as they were back then. Nevermind that, back to the tutorial. The most difficult aspect of this tutorial was, believe or not, gaining the mineral oil. This was beyond hell. Yeah, try asking someone at Walgreens or Walmart that you need 5 GALLONS of mineral oil. Need I remind you what this stuff is. Most people don't seem to realize this, but this is the good "shit" per se. This is a last resort for the laxitive enthusiast. Mineral oil is what people call, a "Fleet Enima," hence the name of this project, The 1337 Fleet. I cannot tell you how many cringes and questions I received when asking this on the phone and in person. Getting back to how to acquire it, your best bet is a tractor supply, or a farm. Though in my region, after making 60 calls between Tester and I, we finally decided to go Walmart and K-Mart hopping. Out of all of the southern region of this state, there is NO MINERAL OIL. We consumed every last bit of it. We had to purchase 40 pints of this liquid gold. 2 Walmarts and 1 K-Mart are leeched. Success. Once we got back to my house, we placed a lot of bags on the ground, hoping not to mess up the hardwood floor. It is a bitch to get that out of the floor. As we poured in this revolting substance, we held our breath praying that it wouldn't explode in our faces for some odd reason. It posted successfully after filling it completely. Luckily, all went well with this monstrosity. After that, we took a hot glue gun and sealed the top to the best of our abilities while resting the 9 year old hard drive on top. You may ask, "Why can't you place that piece of junk hard drive in the aquarium?!" My answer to you, my friend, is that all hard drives have a little hole on the bottom of it that requires air to maintain proper preasure, if that were sealed, it would not function properly.

Step 4: Fill 'er Up!

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Not much skill is needed with this part. All you need is a funnel, and a steady hand. If you have wood floors, odds are it is best to place something underneath your aquarium computer so it doesn't stain the wood. Turn on your computer and quickly fill the area as much as you can. We had to turn off the computer for a bit when it reached the CPU fan since it was disproportioned, and was setting it a bit off kilter. If we had it in gallon form, (the oil) it would have gone much smoother. After filling it up to the top with 37 pints of oil, and saw that it was functioning properly, we need to seal the top off as well as we could.

Step 5: Sealing the Deal

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The final step. All we need to do now is to make it as air tight as possible. To seal off the lid, we took a hot glue gun and doused it with glue. We just placed it around the perimeter to the best of our abilities, (you can view the images below for a better idea).

Step 6: Final Thoughts

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As of now, it seems to be functioning alright, but keep a couple of things in mind; velcro, as I have found out, does not hold down case fans too well. The one black fan as shown in the images and video started to fall over, but luckily was caught by the other case fan's cord. Phew! One other thing is that the case feels quite hot! Maybe it is because our summers here are pretty warm and humid. I guess certainly no hotter than it was prior in the cirulating air environment. I will certainly keep you posted in the forums about how long this piece of machinery is lasting. I am hoping that if it survives the summer, than it has passed the hardest test on any computer. And by the by, this is one of the heaviest PC's you will ever carry. Since mineral oil is 64 oz. per gallon, and there are 5 gallons plus the weight of the PSU, etc. it should be around 25 pounds. In terms of noise, it would be COMPLETELY silent, if there was no hard drive. Since the hdd is 9 years old, it was not built for silence+performance. Hope you enjoyed this somewhat of a loose tutorial, enjoy the pics and video, and try this on your own if you have computer parts to spare!

Here are some finished product pics.
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E1Mike1 month ago

im looking forward to build a Semi-modular Gaming PC, oil cooled, and this seems to be a great idea, but does the components last summerged!? like 3 - 5 years, i really take care of my components and my oldest computer is 9 year old, so i realy need to know. THIS IS BEST COOLING EVER @ if it last!

jamert1 month ago

for those looking into this for gaming rigs, this may answer some questions you have.

http://www.pugetsystems.com/submerged.php

I've been looking into this, buy the DIY is significantly cheaper.

Malkaris10 months ago
I've got a machine I've been running submerged for a while. A few observations
1. The oil never "wicked" up the wires, I suppose in some special case it might, but I never experienced it.
2. Depending on the watts you may not need external radiators to cool the oil. As a server under light load it would hold a temperature (a little warm but it was safe)
3. Don't try phosphorescent powder, it's too dense to stay suspended :(
4. Never had any problem, I use it for ASIC bitcoin mining and CPU litecoin mining
5. For the CPU mining I added a small (very small) aquarium pump with a pair of oil radiators striped from a Ford Explorer, they word well to quietly cool the system.

The best way to think of oil cooling is a universal heat-exchange adapter. The oil nicely takes heat from your device and transfers it to where you'd rather the heat go. So if you've got a 1000 watt PSU, if you use a large enough (1BTU/hr ~= 0.3Watt) radiator to "balance the equation"

dscn1635.jpg
Bugilt Malkaris3 months ago

Oil Submerged Crypto Mining

6 GPUs 5 in the video(one is down.)

Malkaris Bugilt2 months ago
Very nice setup. I was worried that GPU cards would have sensors on the fans. But it appears at least these do not.
I am still shopping for bargain ASICS to add to my bath.

as a fellow bitcoin miner your post is extremely informative!

glj12 (author)  wrinklemonster6 months ago
Glad to see that my project is somehow, still alive and a discussion. Nice post!

http://malkaris.blogspot.com/2013/03/the-merits-of...

I'm not sure if links are allowed but I've got more details about my project here.

thank you very much!

my only question is how come you didnt remove the fans? i'm assuming you kept them for the same reason they were there to improve flow, but wouldnt the mineral oil be very hard on them?

glj12 (author)  wrinklemonster6 months ago
Laziness I guess.Watching the fans slowly die was fun.

So the fans didnt work? i had figured since they should be magnadrive they would work alebiet slwoly but work to push the oil around for you nonetheless.

glj12 (author)  wrinklemonster6 months ago

Nah, that's not necessary. Stagnant mineral oil is fine.

I'm not argueing that it's necessary I'd just like to go into it with an understanding, was the fan that stopped magna drive, or did it die because it was still a motor based fan?

glj12 (author)  wrinklemonster6 months ago

It was just one of those cheap, system-esque fans with ball-bearings. No idea what type of fan it was. But, it eventually slowed to a hault after too much stress of constantly forcing viscus material around itself. Fans are not made to do that, therefore it died.

Ah ok that makes sense, Definitley a weird feeling watching hardware die in front of you and not minding. Have you noticed any issue with bleeding from the psu? I'm thinking the mineral oil should be non conductive enough to make that a nonissue, and i'm not referring to the toxicity discussion here as especially if you were to vacuum seal the system as i intend to moisture would be a non-issue, my curiosity would be the capacitors themselves bleeding electricity however i would imagine that after an hour of runtime this would be a fault problem, so if you havent noticed that i'm guessing you arent going to, the viscosity of the mineral oil shouldnt change very much. i've got a 1250 watt psu so i'm curious if that would arc more and cause more of an issue. However as you can probably imagine i'm not using anywhere near its capacity. So its curious lol.

Obviuously i'm still very wary and researching heavily because i dont want to toast my gaming rig, but i will continue to try to find out what psu's people are successfully dunking for a duration, Malkaris is one i would really like to hear from i know he's consuming huge amounts of power with mining. so my answer may lie with him.

as i told him THANK YOU so much for your post it's invaluable to me!

no power issues. I explained the few issues I had with hardware. one new observation that warm oil (60degC) will quickly stiffen PVC parts like USB insulation. it doesn't fail, just won't bend anymore.
glj12 (author)  wrinklemonster6 months ago

A couple of things I can point out that may or may not help are: it was a lower wattage PSU from when this project was developed in 2007, probably no PSU bleeding, and I didn't have anything moisture sealed. The system was on continuously as a server for more than 5 years and I didn't notice any issues with it whatsoever.

No problem, I'm glad that you have found this article useful, even after 7 years of its posting!

dcollette14 months ago
do you need the fan? because isn't the whole point to eliminate All noise?
lord slender6 months ago

maybe if you tried adding a peltiere cold plate to the top of the tank? you could rely on the convection inside the tank to bring warm oil up to the plate then it will sink as it cools?

mmackinnon111 months ago
Does anyone know of an alternative to mineral oil due to the cost eg. automotive, industrial, cosmetic, food related... or a gel powder mix added to water? - please and thanks
Mike

You could use motor oil, not sure if it would be cheaper. I considered using synthetic oil, something that stays fluid until -40, then you could "cryogenic" cool the oil. Generally not necessary, but who knows what people might do.

The trick is something that won't conduct, and doesn't corrode or dissolve the parts.

piratus9 months ago
what happen after 1 year ; does it have probleme with dust ; or do we have change the oil sometimes ?! thanks ;)
glj12 (author)  piratus9 months ago
Hi Piratus,

Nothing happened after one year, other than a negligible amount of mineral oil was missing. I could have topped it off, but that would not have made any difference. No need to change the oil, other than after a few years maybe add a bit more.

Cheers!
markowen_36911 months ago
Baby oil is mineral oil one is scented, I guess "Awlatmg" is referencing a commercial grade mineral over a residential grade. Got some at Sams Club for next to nothing saved me a trip to a farming supply store / chemical reseller... Wiki me good.
awlatmg11 months ago
Clear oil, yes lamp oil is cheap at Ikea, but that would light on fire. Baby oil works well and smells good, try that got some from the dollar store. Mineral oil will last longer than baby oil, mineral oil for Mineral $15-20 per quart at 5-6 quart - $100 vs. Baby oil $5-10 per quart at 5-6 quart - $50, the baby oil is 25% less efficient. If it were changed once every two years the baby oil is better value but need to be change on a more regular basis depending on use. The mineral oil is better for overclocking and longevity. If it’s a day to day pc, mineral if it’s a show piece baby oil. I took an old tv removed the tube built a tank with plexi and silicone, mineral oil rocks pumps décor and light for less than $150. Looks amazing and I use it as a media server for my home and now I don’t have to feed my fish.
tfarris1 year ago
Contact me I wanna know if this requires any special kind of mineral oil if not I would like to know ASAP what I can put under the oil and what I can't and how to keep it moving around I'm also wondering how much it would cost to convert my PC to a mineral oil pc
bet it doesnt over heat a lot due to that mineral oil
Qoute, "sockeye101says: this is why they use oil as a coolant in transformers. however, after a while it becomes radioactive/ toxic/ poisonous or something like that. BEWARE!" Actually what happens to the mineral oil in transformers is the oil can absorb moisture and break down due to internal arcs in the core of the transformer. The moisture forms sludge, and the arcs break down the oil into several different compounds, one of which is acetylene. This darkens the oil and can introduce carbon into the oil from being broken down by arcing. Transformers that do this are usually found during routine oil sampling and repaired. Unless you put something radioactive into the oil, it won't become radioactive. Toxic/poisionous is a possibility if anything shorts or arcs in the oil; or if the oil breaks down the wire insulation. As an intersting note HV transformer cores contain wood and paper as insulation, along with the silicon steel core and the copper windings. The mineral oil in transformers usually has a breakdown threshold of say, 3kV or so, found by using a oil tester made by Doble. I work for a company that builds HV circuit breakers and am familar with transformers. Cool setup though!!
I don't think you understand something.... When was the last time you saw a computer 'arc' any electricity? Never. That's because they don't. You're not even comparing "Apples to Oranges" more like "Squid to Invader Zim." The reaction you're explaining will positively never happen in a computer, it doesn't have the 'capacity' to do so.
Computers are electric devices. Short them out and they'll arc. They've plenty of 'capacity' to do so.
"Computers are electric devices"
Yes indeed.

"Short them out and they'll arc."
Not much and not very long. Poof! they stop working.

"They've plenty of 'capacity' to do so."
Not enough to cause mineral oil to become radioactive/ toxic/ poisonous - which was the whole point of the original comment.
"Squid to Invader Zim." LOL
I've seen a computer power supply arc. Shortly afterwards, it let all the smoke out of the computer, so it didn't work anymore, though. I'd still be concerned that a shorted power supply MAY be able to produce enough heat to cause a problem, but without having done any experimentation with mineral oil, I don't know what kind of heat we'd be talking about.
Here's the thing though: Even if it did have that affect on food grade mineral oil, a Power Supply that is in the process of 'arcing electricity' will very quickly fail. End of Computer. It likely won't process long enough to make any mineral oil toxic.
Indeed, once the smoke is let out the PC doesn't work anymore. :/
Nyxius Javin0074 years ago
computers may not arc, but anything over a couple of volts has bleed. Same results as arcing, but longer to achieve.
As I've researched the concept of using mineral oil to cool a PC I've yet to encounter anything remotely related to the following: "oil can absorb moisture and break down due to internal arcs in the core of the transformer. The moisture forms sludge, and the arcs break down the oil into several different compounds, one of which is acetylene. This darkens the oil and can introduce carbon into the oil from being broken down by arcing." This is explaining something that occurs in Industrial HIGH VOLTAGE conditions using non-food-grade mineral oil. It is so far off base when compared to the voltage and output of a PC power supply that it is silly to contemplate happening whether a Power Supply temporarily arcs (and then dies) or over a period of time 'bleeds.' It... will... not... happen. It cannot happen, a power supply doesn't have the 'umph' to do so.
I'm not saying that it is enough to cause a problem for circuitry. And it will definitely not be observable. I too have done a large amount of research into electro-chemical reactions, and I actually used a computer power supply as one of my tools for awhile (until I could afford to buy a supply with more juice). Mineral oil is probable fine to use as an insulator, but I would recommend filtration or replacement at least once per year. I don't know how hygroscopic mineral oil is, but I do know that breakdown can occur in non polar fluids due to induced London Effect charge, and I know that any impurities in the oil will aggravate that by increasing any dielectric. Increased dielectric = increased probability of reaction.
And he might be thinking of cfc oil
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