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Why Choosing The Right Plastic Material In Data Centers Is Important

Data Center Aisle Containment

We rarely think about the role of plastics in places like data centers. To be honest, how many people think about data centers at all?

Just the same, they're an essential part of modern life whether we're aware of them or not, and plastics play a prominent role in their safe and effective operation. For example, high-performance plastics provide excellent protection for crucial IT components, safeguard data centers, and support the companies and organizations they serve.

Physical barriers made of plastics are used in data center aisle containment to separate critical cooling air from the heat output by powerful servers and other IT equipment. As a result, data centers boost performance for essential tech equipment and provide a consistent, reliable environment for IT thanks to high-performance aisle containment.

What Is a Data Center?

A data center is a facility that combines shared IT operations and equipment to process, store, and allow access to data and applications. Because they store a company's most crucial and proprietary assets, data centers are vital to everyday operations.

Data centers were once highly controlled physical infrastructures, but public-access cloud computing changed that. Except when regulations mandate an on-premises data center without the internet, most modern data center infrastructures have moved from individual physical servers to virtualized infrastructure that supports applications and workloads across multi-cloud environments.

Almost every corporate and government body builds and maintains its own data center, accesses another's, or a combination of the two. Many choices are available nowadays, such as renting servers at a co-location facility, employing third-party data center services, or using public cloud-based services from Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Google—all of which operate multiple data centers worldwide.

Advantages of Plastics for Data Centers

Plastics are very flexible in terms of design. Since plastic sheet can be cut to size and thermoplastics can be heated and twisted into custom shapes to fit a specific space, they are adaptable for nearly any purpose. In addition, with simple hand tools, plastic sheet can be quickly and easily cut to size on location, speeding up installation. This makes it perfect for pre-existing facilities requiring solutions that can be fitted or retrofitted.

Specialized plastics can also efficiently redirect airflow to other portions of the data center's facility and accommodate heat transfers that would otherwise require continuously-run HVAC systems to maintain. Data centers lower their energy expenses when using high-performance plastics for aisle containment and airflow redirection. Utilizing duct spacers, data centers can more efficiently run cables between servers.

Plastics also provide optical clarity while acting as a barrier. Operators and staff can easily see and service IT equipment, determine if something is damaged or out of place, and potentially increase productivity for those who must regularly inspect equipment.

Regarding data center aisle containment, plastics can also provide a high level of security. In addition to being impact resistant, which can prevent physical damage or manipulation, many high-performance plastics also offer flame resistance and thermal insulation to shield equipment from damage from heat or smoke. These features result in less equipment downtime and improved efficiency and system performance.

Types of Plastic Used For Data Center Aisle Containment

Popular high-performing plastics used in data center aisle containment include multiwall polycarbonate, monolithic polycarbonate, polycarbonate fire-resistant sheet, and clear PVC.

  • Multiwall polycarbonate has exceptional impact strength. Its double-layer construction makes it insulating, and its translucent properties provide privacy while enabling strong light transmission. Other benefits include dimensional stability at high temperatures, low weight, and flame resistance.
  • Monolithic polycarbonate sheet feature high durability, shock resistance, and lightweight. Polycarbonate is approximately 250 times stronger than standard glass and almost twice as light.
  • Polycarbonate fire-resistant sheet offers immensely high impact strength and is nearly impossible to break. It is fire resistant, offers high levels of optical clarity, is low in weight, and has excellent formability for custom needs.
  • While not quite as strong as polycarbonate, clear PVC offers significant impact resistance and durability. Clear PVC also provides high optical clarity and excellent flame and chemical resistance.

Tips For Selecting Materials for Aisle Containment

Your choices for data center aisle containment should take in several factors. Ahead of a particular material's visual and practical features, the most critical material decision should consider industry standards for smoke and heat resistance. In particular, search for products with an ASTME84 Class "A" smoke rating.

From there, choose materials that complement your data center's physical structure and aesthetic features. For instance, multiwall polycarbonate enclosures may be the best option if you need enclosures that protect your equipment and provide privacy. However, a monolithic polycarbonate or clear PVC enclosure may be more useful if you have team members who need visual access to equipment without opening barriers.

For More About Plastics In Data Centers

If you have more questions about how plastics can benefit your data center, whether for aisle containment, access, heat distribution, or more, give us a call. The materials teams at Piedmont Plastics have extensive knowledge of what plastics work best for specific applications.

Contact us today for more information.