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Comparison of EK old nickel and EK EN nickel (first tear-down and rebuild)

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 
Well I finally drained my loop for the first time since building it around 15 months ago. Yes, that's probably longer than I should have let it go biggrin.gif The reason I finally did it was a) having enough time off work this past week to tackle it and b) gradual evaporation had dropped the water level in my res down near the top of the inlet port, making it generate unsettling gurgling sounds.

It went quite well considering my loop has a number of twists and turns in it which makes assembly/disassembly a bit of a jigsaw puzzle. My coolant was distilled H2O with a few drops of copper sulfate biocide, and despite the over-long period without even topping it off, there was absolutely no biological growth. The water was perfectly clear and had a reassuring slight chemical smell very similar to clean swimming pool water, that I assume is the biocide.

A few months after building, I'd noticed a thin, bright green deposit had formed on the inside of my res. I let it go since it quickly seemed apparent that it wasn't algae, and after building up somewhat rapidly, it stabilized if not actually lessened.

Lo and behold, the same green stuff is lining my tubes:

By the color I figure this is almost certainly a copper oxide of some sort, either from the biocide or my rads or both. It's a bit disturbing when I consider that this is undoubtedly coating everything inside the loop, but it performed flawlessly the whole time it was running and the water was clean, so I'm calling it not a big deal.

Anyway, all that serves as preamble. The significant thing I thought I'd share with the community is the condition of my GPU blocks. I'm running two 5850's (yes, I'm due for an upgrade) with EK nickel. One of them is EN and the other is pre-EN.

When I originally built, I had been gathering parts for around a full year, starting right around the eruption of the Great EK Nickel Fiasco of 2011. The non-EN block was the first item I bought, blithely purchased before I was aware there were any issues with EK nickel. frown.gif I bought it used after the original owner had it under water for about three or four months, and it was in spotless condition when I received it. The EN block was purchased some months later, also second hand, but still sealed and brand-new in the retail box.

Once I decided I was going to use the older block despite the risks, I figured that one day this would make a great illustration of any difference in the reliability of the two plating methods. Can you guess which is which?

Not hard, was it. The blocks are both shown above immediately after removing their tops, before any cleaning has occurred. Although it's not nearly as bad as some that have been shown here in the past, the non-EN block has multiple spots of degraded plating thumbsdownsmileyanim.gif. The plating on the EN block, however, is impressively, completely spotless thumb.gifthumb.gif.

Not to beat a dead horse since problems in pre-EN nickel are by now old news, but here's some isolated shots of the most degraded sections. The failed plating here is IMO completely consistent with the prevailing theory that the problems were caused by micro-pores in the plating, and appear most prominently in places where waterflow is stagnant, which fosters electrolysis which widens the pore and potentially causes pieces of nickel to separate.



This last one shows a significant chip of nickel which appears to have heaved up. Definitely wasn't like that when I installed it.

Now as I mentioned, it's not news that old-style nickel plating from early 2011 might fail. I was actually expecting more damage than what occurred, and knew the risk going in, so all told I'm not upset. Not bad for a used block.

What did surprise me a little is the absolutely perfect condition of the newer, EN-plated block. Keep in mind that these blocks ran in the same loop, same coolant, side by side for 15 months.

Here it is after a little wipe-down with a microfiber cloth moistened with diluted white vinegar. I peered very closely along every edge of the waves and the o-ring channel, and it looks exactly like new. thumb.gif

The difference between the blocks really shows on the wave channels though:

There are a slight few specks of dust on each, but the EN block is mirror-perfect edge to edge. The non-EN block shows severe pitting with some visibly exposed copper in the one overtly damaged area, and minor pitting along almost the entire surface of the waves.

I don't know if there's any lesson to be had here but given how notorious the nickel problems were, I figured this might be something people might want to see. EK-haters can take pleasure in the evidence of yet another old block with bad plating, and EK-agnostics can take note that the EN plating appears to have endured spectacularly well.

I am a bit torn though as to whether I can rebuild as I had intended. I haven't opened up my CPU block yet (EK Supreme HF full EN nickel), which is where I expect I will find some of the damaged plating. I was planning to get at least another six months out of my 5850's before buying a new card, but now I'm not sure I want to put that damaged block back underwater.
Edited by threephi - 3/31/13 at 5:42pm
Blinky
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Blinky
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post #2 of 4
Thanks for sharing. Very objective and informing of the plating improvments, not many 15month side by side tests like that to shed light on the change and this certainly does show the advantage of the EN process.

Great job!thumb.gif

IMO, you could use a corrosion inhibitor and get by with the slightly corroded block just fine. All those AIO units like the Corsair H100 run mixed aluminum/copper loops with a 5 year warranty using a corrosion inhibitor. I would think any sort of corrosion blocker would do fine to get you by a another six.
    
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post #3 of 4
Thread Starter 
Thanks Martin! Coming from you that's high praise indeed smile.gif

It wasn't an entirely scientific test since the old block had an unknown amount of use beforehand, but I think the comparison is meaningful nonetheless.

Great idea on using a corrosion inhibitor, thanks! thumb.gif
Blinky
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Blinky
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post #4 of 4
Makes me feel better about purchasing a GTX 690 nickle.
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Ailuromania
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Mighty Mouse
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MaowMix
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