Air Corrosion Monitoring:
Corrosion is defined as the deterioration of a base metal resulting from a reaction with its environment.
IT Companies & Data Center Companies allocate and invest a sizeable portion of their initial budget and their operational budgets in installation and maintenance of technology to ensure maximum performance of the servers, and preventive mechanisms to ensure minimum damage to the functional components of the Data Centers. While preventions against threats posed by fire, power, temperature, humidity and airborne particulates are very well addressed, Data Centers still face multiple problems that are often referred to as “Ghost Signals”.
The symptoms are:
- Failures & Outages of Discrete Electronic Components & PCB Boards
- Sporadic Circuit Failure
- Lower Energy Efficiency of Installed IT Equipment
- Inconsistency of Critical Data
- Incorrect and Lost of Data
- Requirement for Replacement of Damaged Electronic Components
- Substantial Increase of Data Center’s Maintenance Costs
Who Are Behind These Problems?
In the context of electronic equipment, “Corrosion” refers to the reactions between the Copper and Silver surfaces that are presents in the IT equipment wit the immediate surroundings, i.e. the gases present in the atmosphere, and resulting in formation of unwanted compounds. More specifically, when corrosive gases along with water vapor come in contact with a base metal, result in various chemical reaction products. As the chemical reaction continues, pitting and metal loss can occur.
Corrosion on a thin film disk may have serious results. The point of reaction can suffer from loss of ferromagnetism (stored information). Moreover, with accumulation of reaction products on the equipment, mechanical failures (head crashes, wear & tear) can occur on data tracks which were not corroded previously.
What are the Corrosive Gases?
Three types of gases are Corrosive in nature: Acidic Gases such as hydrogen sulfide (H2S), Sulfur Oxides, Chlorine and Nitrogen Oxides; Alkaline Gases such as Ammonia (NH3); and Oxidizing Gases such as Ozone (O3).
Out of the all the types of gases that can cause corrosion, the acidic gases are typically the most harmful.
What are the sources of these Corrosive Gases?
These corrosive gases have many sources. Both externally and internally generated gases can pose a problem to sensitive electronic equipment.
- Auto Emissions
- Heavy Industrial Emission, heat generated and power generation plants
- Environmental Conditions, like Temperature Inversions
Offices are more prone to air pollution from gaseous airborne contamination if it is situated near:
- Landfill sites
- Sewerage / Drains
- Swamp / Marshy Lands
- High density traffic
- Process Industry (emanating industrial effluents)
Within a building, gases can be internally produced by cigarette smoke and data center printers, fresh paints and varnishes, air fresheners, certain cosmetics, dry cleaning chemicals, aerosol propellants, glues and house cleaning agents. Cleaning compounds, especially industrial strength variants, are known to highly potential sources of ammonia. Cigarette smoke contains both particulate and gaseous contaminants; and is known to be a source of nitrogen oxide. (Even if smoking is not allowed in the computer room, off-gassing can occur from clothing.) Microfiche systems were heavy producers of ammonia, while printers can discharge sulfur compounds and chlorides.
Since most office buildings have their own air conditioning systems and are supposedly controlled environments, it may be assumed that gaseous contaminants, created externally or internally, will not enter the computer room. However, the computer room’s dedicated air conditioning system is being used purely for recirculation not pressurization. Without pressurization, gaseous contaminants can seep into the computer room through opening and closing of doors, cracks in wall and ceiling joints, cable and utility penetrations, and spaces above drop ceilings and below raised floors.
Gases are often present in such low concentrations that they are not detectable by the human nose. This does not mean that the gases are not present in sufficient amounts to damage electronic equipment. Generally the odor threshold levels are much higher than the levels needed to cause corrosive damage. Contaminants are very often generated indoors in Data Processing and Computer Printing Facilities. Though these facilities are equipped with high quality air filtration equipment to arrest very fine airborne particles generated from high speed printers, and with precision air conditioners to minutely control the temperature and the humidity, these are not capable of removing the existing gaseous contaminants. Moreover, if because of any reason the fine air borne particles generated by the printers are not removed then they deposit on the surface of disc drives and electronic circuits and can create maintenance downtime.
How to avoid this Risk?
The following proactive measures need to be taken and necessary precautionary measures are to be adopted to get rid of the problems of Air Corrosion:
1) Measuring the Composition of the Air in the Data Centre,
2) Metal Reactivity Monitoring.
When should the Monitoring be done?
Based on studies, the following has been identified as the best practices for Indoor Air Quality Analysis and Air Corrosion Monitoring:
- Before selection of site for setting up Data Centre,
- After construction of the building structure,
- After Setting up of the Data Centre Infrastructure, prior to commissioning
- Post commissioning, once every quarter, since Air quality changes along with season.
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