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Modified Pulse Tube Refrigerator Halves Cryogenic Cooling Time

A simple modification to a popular type of cryogenic cooler could save $30 million in global electricity consumption and enough cooling water to fill 5000 Olympic swimming pools. That is the claim of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder who describe their energy-efficient design in Nature Communications.   Ryan Snodgrass and colleagues in the US have designed a new way to operate pulse tube refrigerators (PTRs), which compress and expand helium gas in cooling cycle that is similar to that used in a household refrigerator. Developed in the 1980s, PTRs can now reach temperatures of just a few Kelvin, which is below the temperature that helium becomes a liquid (4.2 K).  While PTRs are reliable and used widely in research and industry, they are very power hungry. When Snodgrass and team looked at why commercial PTRs consume so much energy, they found that the devices were designed to be efficient at their final operating temperature of about 4 K. At higher temperatures, the PTRs are much less efficient – and this is a problem because the cooling process begins at room temperature.  Easier repairs As well as using lots of electricity to cool down, this inefficiency means that it can take a very long time to cool objects. For example, the Cryogenic Underground Observatory for Rare Events (CUORE) – which is looking for neutrinoless double beta decay deep under a mountain in Italy – is cooled to a preliminary 4 K by five PTRs in a process that takes 20 days. Reducing such long cooling times would make it easier and less costly to modify or repair cryogenic systems.  READ MOREEngineers installing MIRI onto the JWST at NASA’s Goddard Spaceflight Center The ten-billion-dollar gamble: Keeping the JWST cool  A careful study of the room-temperature operation of PTRs revealed that the helium gas is compressed to a very high pressure. This causes a relief valve to open, sending some of the helium back to the compressor. Less helium is therefore used for cooling, reducing the efficiency of the PTR.  Snodgrass and colleagues solved this problem by replacing the manufacturer-supplied needle valves in a PTR with customized needle valves that can be adjusted constantly. These needle valves control the flow of gas between the refrigerator and its helium reservoirs. They are normally set to optimize the operation of the PTR at cryogenic temperatures.  In the new operating protocol developed at NIST, the needle valves are open at room temperature. This allows gas to flow in and out of the reservoir, which moderates the pressure in the refrigerator. As the temperature drops, the valves are slowly closed – keeping the system at an ideal pressure throughout its operation.  The team found that the modification can boost the cooling rate of PTRs by 1.7–3.5 times. As well as making cooling quicker and more energy efficient, the new design could also be used to reduce the size or number PTRs needed for specific applications. This could be very important for applications in space, where PTRs are already used to cool infrared telescopes such as MIRI on the James Webb Space Telescope.   A simple modification to a popular type of cryogenic cooler could save $30 million in global electricity consumption and enough cooling water to fill 5000 Olympic swimming pools. That is the claim of researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) and the University of Colorado Boulder who describe their energy-efficient design in Nature Communications.

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Cryogenics in Zero Gravity

Issam Mudawar (far left) oversees an experiment to test how microgravity affects cryogenic liquids, which is vital to the future operation of space-based propellant depots. Credit: Purdue University/Jared PikeAs we plan for future interplanetary spaceflight, one major aspect remains untested: refueling in space. That's because most rocket propellants are cryogenic liquids whose long-term behavior in space is still unknown. Purdue University researchers are collaborating with NASA to study cryogenic liquids in zero gravity, leading to the possibility of propellant depots and refueling spacecraft in orbit.

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World's Highest-Efficiency Hydrogen System Scales Up for Mass Production

Hysata promises the world's cheapest hydrogen, thanks to a remarkable device that splits water into H2 and O2 at 95% efficiency – some 20% higher than the best conventional electrolyzers. The company has raised US$111 million to scale up production. You have to throw some energy away to make hydrogen – typically around 20-30%, even with the best systems, which use around 52.5 kWh of energy to create a kilogram of hydrogen that can store 39.4 kWh of energy. It's a waste of renewable energy, and it contributes to the high cost of a green fuel option that's really struggling to compete against fossils and batteries in many applications.Hysata promises the world's cheapest hydrogen, thanks to a remarkable device that splits water into H2 and O2 at 95% efficiency – some 20% higher than the best conventional electrolyzers. The company has raised US$111 million to scale up production.
You have to throw some energy away to make hydrogen – typically around 20-30%, even with the best systems, which use around 52.5 kWh of energy to create a kilogram of hydrogen that can store 39.4 kWh of energy. It's a waste of renewable energy, and it contributes to the high cost of a green fuel option that's really struggling to compete against fossils and batteries in many applications.

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The Next Generation in Cryogenics and Superconductivity

young professionals

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Under Pressure: Harvard Scientists Break Through Precise Measurement with New Tool

Image 1: Chris Laumann (left) and Norman Yao explain high-pressure hydride superconductor research. Credit: Kris Snibbe/Harvard Staff Photographer Image 2: An artist’s rendering of nitrogen vacancy centers in a diamond anvil cell, which can detect the expulsion of magnetic fields by a high-pressure superconductor. Credit: Ella MarushchenkoHydrogen (like many of us) acts weird under pressure. Theory predicts that when crushed by the weight of more than a million times Earth’s atmosphere, this light, abundant, normally gaseous element first becomes a metal and then, even more strangely, a superconductor – a material that conducts electricity with no resistance. Scientists have been eager to understand and eventually harness superconducting hydrogen-rich compounds, called hydrides, for practical applications ranging from levitating trains to electric grids that transmit power with perfect efficiency to new types of electronics and memory devices. But studying the behavior of these and other materials under enormous, sustained pressure is anything but practical, and accurately measuring those behaviors ranges somewhere between a nightmare and impossible. 

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Quantum Design Explores Quantum Frontiers with Precision Measurements

Images and Figures:    Figure 1: This collage shows the instruments produced by Quantum Design. Many new materials have been analyzed in Quantum Design systems including superconductors, quantum magnets, thermoelectrics, magneto-caloric, two-dimensional and many other material classes. Credit: Quantum Design       FIGURE 2: Quantum Design’s precision measurement systems allow researchers to test the quantum limit. The quantum limit is the crossover when classical mechanics can no longer describe the behavior of a material and the quantum mechanics behavior of the electron dominates the effect. Credit: Quantum Design      FIGURE 3: This figure shows field-dependent transverse and longitudinal transport measurements for a GaAs 2-D electron gas system at 2 K with 1 μA sourced excitation current in the van der Pauw geometry. Credit: Quantum DesignSince 1982, Quantum Design has been providing lab-ready scientific instruments to colleges, universities, government and corporate laboratories around the world. Instruments include the DynaCool® Physical Property Measurement System (PPMS), the MPMS3® SQUID Magnetometer and VersaLab® Physics Education System. The OptiCool® is a large volume, low vibration, low temperature and high magnetic field cryogen-free environment for magneto-optical investigations. The FusionScope® is a correlative microscopy system for scanning electron microscopy (SEM), atomic force microscopy (AFM) and elemental imaging of materials. These instruments are made in the US and were designed and developed by Quantum Design’s engineering team in San Diego, Calif. 

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Goddard Goings: When NASA Went SHOOTING Into Orbit

Image: In this image are people well-known to the cryogenics community: Mike DiPirro, Peter Shirron, and Jim Tuttle. If you know them, you should be able to pick them out. (Hint: look at the second row.) Also included are the astronaut mission specialists Janice E. Voss and Peter J. Wisoff, who were tasked with taking care of SHOOT while on orbit. They are third and first from the right in the second row. The two dewars are seen in the background. The '80s have been thrust back into our collective conscious! Hits such as Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" and "Running up that Hill" by Kate Bush have been introduced to a new generation by an incredibly popular cover of the first song and the repetitious use of the second in a recent hit TV series. So, I thought it was appropriate to bring back something spaceflight-related from that decade. The Superfluid Helium on Orbit Transfer flight demonstration, SHOOT, was conceived in 1982 and executed by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center over the remainder of the 1980s. 

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How CRYOCO Is Empowering the Next Generation

David-John RothCRYOCO is at the forefront of cryogenic education, training and consulting, boasting a 45-year legacy of providing unparalleled expertise. With a focus on fostering technical prowess across various sectors, from aerospace to medical industries, the company has been instrumental in shaping the landscape of cryogenic applications. Led by David-John Roth, a seasoned cryogenic engineer and subject-matter expert at Kennedy Space Center, CRYOCO offers an array of in-person classroom-style courses tailored to meet the diverse needs of industries worldwide. As Cold Facts celebrates up-and-coming scientists and engineers in our “Young Professionals in Cryogenics and Superconductivity” feature, we sit down with David-John Roth to explore the professional development opportunities CRYOCO offers and discuss the opportunities young professionals bring to the industry. 

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CLARREO Pathfinder’s Cool Breakthrough, from Space to Quantum

For decades, Northrop Grumman has been making highly dependable cooling systems, cryocoolers, for spacecraft. In spacecraft, a cryocooler is most often essentially a specialized refrigerator deployed on satellites and space telescopes to maintain extremely low temperatures for onboard sensors. This is crucial for capturing high-resolution images of Earth or outer space, like the ones captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. Reliability is key because cryocoolers are part of a symbiotic relationship. If the cryocooler malfunctions, then sensors won’t function. They need each other.   “Our cryocoolers are incredibly reliable – they’re performing the same at the end of their 20-year mission as they did on day one. We’ve observed absolutely no degradation in performance over their mission life,” said Owen Cupp, general manager of the cryocooler operating unit at Northrop Grumman.   While consistent performance over such a long period of time is noteworthy, not every mission requires a cryocooler to last for 20 years. However, no matter the length of the mission or budget, this technology needs to be reliable because in space, fixing isn’t an option.  Northrop Grumman is developing a more cost-effective, reliable class of cryocoolers based on proven designs used in critical national defense, climate, weather and astronomy missions. These new cryocoolers have a simpler design, can be produced more quickly and in larger quantities and are suitable for less demanding missions.   The Climate of Opportunity  Engineers at the University of Colorado at Boulder (CU Boulder) were building a special sensor for the Climate Absolute Radiance and Refractivity Observatory (CLARREO) Pathfinder Mission, which is slated to launch at the end of this decade. Like most space-based missions, the sensor requires a highly reliable cryocooler. However, the mission is only for two years, and the university has a tight budget.   “We knew Northrop Grumman had a strong heritage with cryocoolers, and with their new class of cryocoolers, we can have the capability and assurance we need within our price point,” said Greg Ucker, project manager for the Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics at CU Boulder.   Once launched, the CLARREO Pathfinder (CPF) will help scientists better understand how our planet’s climate is changing by precisely measuring sunlight that bounces off the Earth. These measurements will be five to ten times more precise than what current sensors can achieve. CPF will also be able to transfer its high-accuracy data to other Earth-viewing sensors. With Northrop Grumman’s cryocooler technology maintaining optimal temperatures for the CLARREO Pathfinder, advances in climate sensing can be unlocked.  Unlocking More Potential  Northrop Grumman’s engineers are exploring other potential applications for this new class of cryocoolers, including its use in quantum computing.    “Customers are going to have a greater idea of how to use the technology in a broader sense, and we may be surprised at what we see,” said Dale Durand, a Northrop Grumman cryocooler engineer. “This new line of cryocoolers opens possibilities for different missions, applications and customers.”   Northrop Grumman’s leadership in the cryocooler industry serves as a benchmark in the field. To date, the company has delivered more than 50 space flight cryocoolers and has accumulated more than 300 years of failure-free, combined on-orbit operations. With a new, affordable line of cryocoolers, the company will continue to push new limits, regardless of climate or budget. www.northropgrumman.com/space/cryocoolers  Image: Northrop Grumman is developing a more cost-effective, reliable class of cryocoolers based on proven designs used in critical national defense, climate, weather and astronomy missions. For decades, Northrop Grumman has been making highly dependable cooling systems, cryocoolers, for spacecraft. In spacecraft, a cryocooler is most often essentially a specialized refrigerator deployed on satellites and space telescopes to maintain extremely low temperatures for onboard sensors. This is crucial for capturing high-resolution images of Earth or outer space, like the ones captured by the James Webb Space Telescope. Reliability is key because cryocoolers are part of a symbiotic relationship. If the cryocooler malfunctions, then sensors won’t function. They need each other. 

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Beyond Gravity Leaps Forward in Satellite Monitoring

Beyond GravityBeyond Gravity, a leading space supplier, expands its expertise into space data services with the launch of its new Space Situational Awareness (SSA) solution. This innovative service, leveraging over six years of data collection, offers unparalleled accuracy and insights into more than 10,000 active satellites, promising to enhance faster decision-making for institutional and commercial customers alike.  

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Great Opportunity: RFI for Black Hole Cooling System

Credit Joseph Farah Our friends at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, in collaboration with other institutions, have published a Request for Information (RFI) for The Black Hole Explorer (BHEX) 4 K Spaceflight Cryocooling System.
BHEX is a space very long baseline interferometry (VLBI) mission aimed at performing black hole precision measurements and capturing an image of a black hole's photon ring. To achieve this, the BHEX instrument receiver system requires a 4 K space cryocooling system to cool the receivers. Your company may be the ideal partner for the job!
Interested parties are invited to respond to the RFI by June 14, 2024. Please provide details on your 4 K spaceflight cryocooling technology's performance, spaceflight capabilities, and cost estimates. Your expertise could propel groundbreaking discoveries in astrophysics.
“This is an incredibly exciting mission for the astrophysics community, and cryogenics plays a pivotal role in making it a reality!” –Hannah Rana, BHEX Cryogenics Co-Lead
 
 
 
 
 
 
Please contact the following for more information, responses, questions or for forwarding supporting information:
Rebecca Baturin, BHEX Instrument Project Manager
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Office: (617) 496 7707
100 Acorn ParkDrive | MS 5 | Cambridge, MA 02140
Janice Houston, BHEX Instrument Systems Engineer
Center for Astrophysics | Harvard & Smithsonian
Office: (617) 495 2818
 
Image Credit: Joseph Farah 

MIT’s Superconducting Magnets are Ready for Fusion

MIT SuperconductingHarnessing nuclear fusion, the process by which lighter atoms combine into heavier ones, has been a dream of researchers for generations: in theory, it could produce electricity without emitting greenhouse gases and, unlike nuclear fission, generate very little radioactive waste.

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Physicists Created an Exotic Superconductor Controlled by Magnetism

Part of the experimental setup. (Mandal/JMU)Superconductivity continues to revolutionize technology in so many ways. While some technological advances rely on finding ways to encourage zero-resistance currents at warmer temperatures, engineers are also considering better ways of fine-controlling the super-efficient flow of electrons.

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Cryogenic Processors to Open Kentucky-Based Freeze-Dry and Packaging Site

Cryogenic ProcessorsCryogenic freezing specialist Cryogenic Processors will open a new cryogenic freezing and freeze-drying facility in Paducah, Kentucky, at the end of 2024. The plant will feature three isolated pelletising rooms, each equipped with advanced blending systems and a standard conical pelletiser with an increased capacity of 1000kg per hour. Once pelletized, storage will be available at temperatures as low as -60°C (-76°F).

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Giant Quantum Tornado Behaves Like a Black Hole in Miniature

Image: Black hole in a blender: The experimental set-up the researchers used to create the giant quantum vortex, which mimics certain behaviours of black holes. Credit: Leonardo SolidoroA novel experimental platform known as a giant quantum vortex mimics certain behaviors of black holes, giving scientists an opportunity to observe the physics of these astrophysical structures up close. The vortex appears in superfluid helium cooled to near-absolute zero temperatures, and according to the team that made it, studies of its dynamics could offer hints as to how cosmological black holes produce their characteristic rotating curved space–times.

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Enhancing Fusion Reactor Control Through Combined Plasma Management Techniques

los-alamos-trident-200-trillion-watt-laser-high-energy-density-plasmas-fusion-hgResearchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Princeton Plasma Physics Laboratory (PPPL) are advancing fusion technology by integrating two established plasma control methods-electron cyclotron current drive (ECCD) and resonant magnetic perturbations (RMP). This combination has shown promising results in improving plasma management, crucial for generating electricity through fusion.

The team's latest simulations, discussed in their recent publication in Nuclear Fusion, mark the first instance where ECCD and RMP have been used together experimentally. "We are exploring new frontiers with this approach, enhancing our control over plasma behavior," commented Qiming Hu, a PPPL staff research physicist and the paper's lead author.

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Bluefors Launches Helium Recovery Solution for Single Unit NMR Systems

HeRL02-RM Helium Reliquefier is designed for helium recovery from a single NMR unit.Bluefors has introduced its latest advancement: the Cryomech HeRL02-RM. This cutting-edge helium reliquefier, specifically engineered for helium recovery from individual nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) units, marks a significant stride in helium conservation and management. The Cryomech HeRL02-RM establishes a closed-loop, zero-boiloff system for NMR magnets, ensuring optimal helium utilization. Boiled-off helium is efficiently redirected through a vapor return line to the reliquefier, powered by a Pulse Tube Cryocooler, where it undergoes instant liquefaction before being reintroduced to the magnet’s helium bath.

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Shuttle, Family Inspire NASA’s Cryogenic Technology Manager

Jeremy Kenny NASAJeremy Kenny squinted his eyes as he looked toward the brilliant light. Then came the deafening sound waves that vibrated his body. This was the moment he’d dreamed about since childhood. It was Nov. 16, 2009, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and Kenny and his wife were watching space shuttle Atlantis embark on a mission to the International Space Station. Kenny, who was less than two years into his NASA career, had the opportunity to see the liftoff from Launch Pad 39A as part of receiving the Space Flight Awareness Award for supporting the Space Shuttle Program’s solid rocket booster flight program.

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The LSST Camera Set to Unveil the Cosmos

Yousuke Utsumi and Aaron Roodman remove the pinhole projector from the cryostat assembly after projecting the first 3,200-megapixel images onto the focal plane of the LSST Camera. (Jacqueline Orrell/SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory)The completion of the Legacy Survey of Space and Time (LSST) Camera, after two decades of collaborative work involving scientists and engineers at the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and international partners, signifies a significant milestone in the construction of the Vera C. Rubin Observatory in Chile. The LSST Camera, designed to conduct a 10-year survey of the Southern Hemisphere sky, represents the largest digital camera ever built for astronomy.

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Review of John Weisend II’s Superfluid – How a Quantum Fluid Revolutionized Modern Science

Super Fluid book by John WeisendOver the recent holidays, we hosted some new friends in our home. The young couple are both technically savvy but have never previously encountered the world of cryogenics, low temperatures, or superfluid helium. I had a copy of John Weisend II’s new book Superfluid – How a Quantum Fluid Revolutionized Modern Science sitting around, and one of the two picked it up out of curiosity. The cover design is cool, and it grabs your attention. Our young friend was captivated by the contents and commented on how great it was that he could understand it all. I will now be ordering a copy for him. (I had yet to read my own copy and would not let him take it with him when he left.) This is a great book. It relates a technically fascinating story in a manner accessible to the general public. You should order a copy for yourself! 

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