Critical Importance of Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Air quality within data centers is more important today than ever. Data centers have unique requirements and strict regulations, compared to a typical commercial site. Particulate and corrosive gaseous contaminants have become a serious problem for data centers and server rooms. In some cases, corrosion of electronic components has resulted in catastrophic failures of equipment, due to environmental conditions such as low concentrations of corrosive gases. These contaminants enter data centers in a variety of ways, including outdoor ventilation systems, adjacent interior areas, and with individuals entering and exiting the facility or critical areas.

Types of Failures

Failures due to particulate and contaminant dust are generally classified as:
  • Mechanical effects, including obstruction of cooling airflow, interference of moving or optical parts, and deformation of surfaces
  • Chemical effects, including corrosion of electrical components, due to dust comprised of sulfur and chlorine bearing salts
  • Electrical effects, including impedance changes and electronic circuit conductor bridging

Corrosive Contaminant Risk

Sulfur-bearing gases, such as sulfur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S), are the most common gases causing corrosion of electronic equipment. Once introduced in a data center or server room environment, these gaseous contaminants lead to deterioration of copper surfaces and silver solder used on computer circuit boards, leading to intermittent and hard failures. These forms of corrosion can cause failure by either impeding the flow of electricity or forming unintended circuit paths. Elimination of corrosive contaminants is therefore essential in maintaining data center equipment reliability.

Optimize Your Environment

In data centers with air-side economizers, supplemental real-time monitoring, such as AAF Flanders’ SAAFShield Technology, is recommended to enable quick reaction to outdoor events that may introduce corrosive gases into data centers. Real-time monitoring is also recommended in data centers with gas-phase filtration air cleaning systems, in order to track the efficiency of the filters. 

For data centers with or without air-side economizers that do not fall within the ISA-71.04 severity level G1 for copper and silver corrosion, remediation through gas-phase filtration is recommended. Blowers at air inlets, fitted with particulate and gas-phase filters, can be used to fill the data center with clean air and pressurize it to prevent contaminated outdoor air from leaking into the data center. The air in the data center can be recirculated through gas-phase filters to remove contaminants that are generated within the data center.