9 Sep 2010

Developing a Cryocooler

From Our Changing World, 9:20 pm on 9 September 2010

Cryocooler, Alan Caughley and Neil Glasson

A cryocooler, and Alan Caughley (left) and Neil Glasson (right) in front of a prototype, holding a metal diaphragm (Images: IRL)

Industrial Research Limited's Alan Caughley and Neil Glasson are designing cryocoolers: refrigeration units that can cool things down to the cryogenic temperatures of liquid nitrogen.

While cryocoolers have been around for a long time, they are generally found in the space and research industry where costs can be much higher. The cyrocoolers at IRL are being designed for industrial use with high temperature superconductors which require temperatures of up to minus 200ºC to function, and are found in motors, generators, transformers, cables, scanning and NMR magnets.

The cryocoolers being developed use a double metal diaphragm system to generate pressure waves. In turn, these waves drive the cooling mechanism in the "pulse tube", which reduce the temperatures down to cryogenic levels. Ruth Beran goes to the IRL workshop in Christchurch to see some of the cryocooler prototypes.

Hear more Our Changing World stories about high temperature superconductors and IRL's research.