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What's in the Air?

Corrosive Gasses in the Data Center

Step into any data center and you are met by the rush of conditioned air and the whine of cooling fans. Servers and other IT equipment ingest huge quantities of air to keep cool. Even though the air may look clear and clean, it may contain small amounts of corrosive gases. These gases attack soft metals such as copper, silver, gold and tin solder – all materials used in the assembly of electronic circuit cards.

Over time, damaged circuit traces can cause intermittent signal loss or even complete failure. The risk of corrosion-related failure has increased in recent years as lead has been removed from the manufacturing process. Your equipment may be at risk and you won't even know it until it's too late.

Corrosive gasses can originate from many sources in the environment surrounding the data center. Common sources are landfill sites, sewage treatment plants, polluted bodies of water, major highways, oil refineries and paper mills. The source may even originate on your own campus. For example, manufacturing processes, building materials, even treated cooling tower water. The source and risk is not always obvious.

The most common gasses associated with corrosion of electronics are sulfur-bearing gasses such as hydrogen sulfide and sulfur dioxide. Next are chlorine and ammonia*. These gases can cause damage at exceedingly small concentration levels – only several parts per billion! By comparison, the human nose is very sensitive to chlorine and yet we can only detect that “pool water” smell once the concentration reaches 300 parts per billion. Damage to electronics begins below 10 parts per billion.

Fortunately, Data Clean consultants can evaluate your data center environment and remediate the condition, as appropriate. Initial analysis is non-intrusive and very cost effective. If nothing is detected, you still gain peace of mind and a clean bill of health for your IT equipment. But if there are issues, Data Clean can provide the additional testing, consulting and equipment needed to create a safe operating environment.

Contact your Data Center Account Manager to arrange a test of your data center. You will rest easier once you know what’s in the air.

*This is why Data Clean cleaning technicians never use chlorine or ammonia based cleaners in a critical environment like a server room. You should monitor all chemicals and cleaners brought into your facility and always rely on trained professionals to maintain your data center.

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