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Product Spotlight: PT450 Pulse Tube Cryocooler


Nathan Kellar
Business Analyst

Pulse tube cryocoolers are cutting-edge devices in the world of cryogenics, known for their ability to achieve and maintain extremely low temperatures with high efficiency. Pulse tube cryocoolers operate without any moving parts, significantly reducing vibrations, enhancing system reliability, and ultimately increasing their lifespan. The PT450 is the world’s highest capacity pulse tube cryocooler, providing more cooling power than ever before and enabling many fields to make further advancements.

The PT450 is particularly suitable for sensitive applications such as superconducting materials research, low temperature physics research, as well as space, telescope, and medical technologies. Its advanced design and thermodynamic principles allow it to deliver robust performance, making it an indispensable tool for scientists and engineers working in cryogenic environments.

What Are Pulse Tube Cryocoolers?

Pulse tube cryocoolers are sophisticated high-performance devices designed to achieve the cryogenic temperatures that research requires within an array of scientific industries. The PT450 allows users to reach a base temperature of 2.8 K with a cooling capacity of 5 W at 4.2 K at its first stage and 66 W at 45 K at its second stage.

Unlike Gifford-McMahon or Stirling cryocoolers, pulse tube cryocoolers operate without moving parts in the cold head. Rather, pulse tubes operate with oscillating pressures and mass flows, utilizing a unique thermodynamic process to achieve the required low temperatures. This innovative design ensures minimal vibration and exceptional reliability and accuracy, making them ideal for sensitive applications.

By using a regenerator to store and release heat, alongside a clever arrangement of heat exchangers and sensors, pulse tube cryocoolers efficiently transfer heat away from the desired location. Additionally, the pulse tube cryocoolers are designed for rapid cooldown, with the PT450 reaching 4 K within just 60 minutes!

This combination of high cooling capacity, low base temperature, and swift cooldown time ensures that the pulse tube cryocooler is a reliable and efficient solution for a wide range of scientific and industrial cryogenic applications.

Cool Companions: The Role of the CP3027 Compressor

Alongside the PT450, the development of its companion compressor was equally important. The creation of the CP3027 compressor marks a significant advancement in cryogenic technology designed to specifically provide the essential helium flow needed to support the substantial cooling capabilities of the PT450 and other large-scale cryocoolers. This synergy ensures that these cryocoolers can achieve and maintain the ultra-low temperatures required for demanding applications in fields such as medical imaging, high-energy physics, and other advanced scientific research.

The CP3027’s development alongside the PT450 emphasizes the integral relationship between the compressor and cryocooler, where the compressor’s ability to provide sufficient helium flow is just as critical as the cooling capacity of the cryocoolers themselves. This combination enhances the overall performance and longevity of the cooling systems, making the CP3027 an indispensable component in modern cryogenic applications.

CPA3027 compressor.

Varied Applications of the PT450

The integration of the PT450 in so many varied applications underscore its versatility and efficiency in achieving ultra-low temperatures.

For example, pulse tube cryocoolers provide the necessary pre-cooling for our dilution refrigerators. They help the systems reach temperatures around 4.2 K, before the dilution process further reduces the temperature to millikelvin levels, and they cool the higher temperature stages. Once integrated into our dilution refrigerators, the PT450 will provide increased cooling power for our users at 4K and 50K stages with less system footprint occupied by the pulse tubes. This will allow for more measurement infrastructure for the user.

Similarly, the PT450 can become an integral piece for Superconducting Radio Frequency (SRF) research, where maintaining superconductivity requires stable cooling. Currently, SRF research heavily relies on liquid helium baths to maintain the required low temperatures. However, with the significant rise in cost due to the constraints on helium, the PT450 is becoming a vital tool within SRF research.

In the realm of photonics and Quantum Information Science and Technology (QIST), devices often operate at 2-4 K to minimize thermal noise and optimize performance. For example, infrared detectors require cryogenic temperatures within spectroscopy, remote sensing, and thermal imaging to reduce thermal noise and increase sensitivity.

In general, pulse tube cryocoolers are an integral piece in many research areas requiring extremely low temperatures. The PT450 can be integrated into both our Liquid Helium Plants and Helium Reliquefiers, providing systems with even higher capacities while also maintaining a stable supply of liquid helium for various scientific and industrial applications.

Different Applications by Operating Temperature

When comparing the uses and technical specifications of pulse tube cryocoolers operating at 3 K or 4 K, the distinctions highlight their tailored applications in scientific research and technology. The applications of PT450 can also be categorized by these temperatures.

At 3 K, pulse tube cryocoolers are essential for experiments that demand ultra-low noise levels and high sensitivity. Transition Edge Sensors (TES) rely on the precise 3 K environment to detect faint signals in astrophysics with minimal thermal interference. Similarly, dark matter detection experiments benefit from the reduced noise at 3 K. Neutrinoless double-beta decay research, which investigates fundamental neutrino properties, also depends on the stable 3 K conditions to minimize background noise. Furthermore, Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs) achieve peak performance at 3 K, crucial for detecting extremely weak magnetic fields in various experimental setups.

In contrast, pulse tube cryocoolers at 4 K can support a different array of applications. In medical imaging, MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) machines leverage superconducting magnets cooled to 4K to deliver high-resolution images. High-energy physics experiments, like those conducted at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), use superconducting magnets maintained at 4 K to facilitate high-energy particle collisions. Additionally, helium liquefaction processes are optimized at 4 K, aligning with the boiling point of helium, ensuring efficient cooling and storage for industrial and research applications.

Tilted Operation for Telescopes and Detectors

Another aspect of the PT450 that has been explored is the affect that tilted orientations have on its productivity. This testing has been done due to interest amongst the space and telescope industries, where operation at angles over 45 degrees have shown some benefits for research. This is because these industries must account for the complexities of their mounting structures, along with the fact that these angles allow for users to simulate dynamic conditions without a significant drop off in performance. For space telescopes, this is specifically important because they experience microgravity, where the orientation relative to gravity is less significant.

Advancing a Diverse Set of Fields

The benefits of the PT450 are diverse, thanks to its robust and reliable performance and virtually maintenance-free operation due to the absence of moving parts. These advantages make the PT450 key in diverse fields such as quantum computing, medical therapy, photonics, and fundamental physics. As the demand for efficient and sustainable cryogenic solutions continues to grow, the PT450 and pulse tube cryocoolers in general are poised to play an even more critical role. Their ability to achieve ultra-low temperatures with high efficiency and minimal operational requirements makes them vital to cryogenic technology, and the PT450 is positioned at the forefront of that as the world leader with its unprecedented cooling power.

Read more about the Cryomech PT450, or contact our sales engineers for more information.