You are on page 1of 6


Author: Kiran B. Patil

College name: Hirasugar Institute Of Technology,Nidasoshi
PCH No: A-PCH081
Mail ID:

Abstract: This paper explains cryogenics and outlines

the history of man's investigations in the field of lowtemperature physics. The properties and uses of liquid
helium are given, and some of the phenomena which
occur at temperatures near absolute zero are noted.
Techniques of low temperature experimentation are
described and some of the applications of
superconducting materials discussed.

not K. Thus, 0 C equals 273.15 K. The English absolute

scale, known as the Rankine scale, uses the
symbol R and has an increment the same as that of the
Fahrenheit scale. In terms of the Kelvin scale the
cryogenic region is often considered to be that below
approximately 120 K (-153 C). The common permanent
gases referred to earlier change from gas to liquid at
atmospheric pressure at the temperatures shown in Table
1, called the normal boiling


Table 1. Normal boiling points of common cryogenic


cryogenics is the study of the production of very low

temperature (below 150 C, 238 F or 123 K) and the
behavior of materials at those temperatures. A person who
studies elements under extremely cold temperature is
called a cryogenicist. Rather than the relative temperature
scales of Celsius and Fahrenheit, cryogenicists use the
absolute temperature scales. These are Kelvin (SI units) or
Rankine scale (English/US units).
The word cryogenics stems from Greek and means "the
production of freezing cold"; however the term is used
today as a synonym for the low-temperature state. It is not
well-defined at what point on the temperature scale
refrigeration ends and cryogenics begins, but most
scientists[1] assume it starts at or below -240 F (about 150 C or 123 K). The National Institute of Standards and
Technology at Boulder, Colorado has chosen to consider
the field of cryogenics as that involving temperatures
below 180 C (93.15 K). This is a logical dividing line,
since the normal boiling points of the so-called permanent
gases (such as helium, hydrogen, neon, nitrogen, oxygen,
and normal air) lie below 180 C while the Freon
refrigerants, hydrogen sulfide, and other common
refrigerants have boiling points above 180 C.
According to the laws of thermodynamics, there exists a
limit to the lowest temperature that can be achieved,
which is known as absolute zero. Molecules are in their
lowest, but finite, energy state at absolute zero. Such a
temperature is impossible to reach because the input
temperatures within a few billionths of a degree above
absolute zero have been achieved. Absolute zero is the
zero of the absolute or thermodynamic temperature scale.
It is equal to 273.15 C or 459.67 F. The metric or
SI (International System) absolute scale is known as the
Kelvin scale whose unit is the kelvin (not Kelvin) which
has the same magnitude as the degree Celsius. The symbol
for the Kelvin scale is K, as adopted by the 13th General
Council on Weights and Measures (CGPM) in 1968, and




( C)














point (NBP). Such liquids are known as cryogenic liquids

or cryogens. When liquid helium is cooled further to 2.17
K or below, it becomes a superfluid with very unusual
properties associated with being in the quantum
mechanical ground state. For example, it has zero
viscosity and produces a film that can creep up and over
the walls of an open container, such as a beaker, and drip
off the bottom as long as the temperature of the container
remains below 2.17 K. The measurement of cryogenic
temperatures requires methods that may not be so familiar
to the general public. Normal mercury or alcohol
thermometers freeze at such low temperatures and become
useless. The platinum resistance thermometer has a well
defined behavior of electrical resistance versus
temperature and is commonly used to measure
temperatures accurately, including cryogenic temperatures
down to about 20 K.
Certain semiconducting materials, such as doped
germanium, are also useful as electrical resistance
thermometers for temperatures down to 1 K and below, as
long as they are calibrated over the range they are to be
used. Such secondary thermometers are calibrated against
primary thermometers that utilize fundamental laws of
physics in which a physical variable changes in a wellknown theoretical way with temperature.
Cryogenics has shown a sustained development towards
ever lower temperatures (Figure 1), attaining values down

to about 0.1 nK today in specialized laboratories through a

combination of helium dilution and adiabatic
demagnetization techniques.

Figure 1. History of low temperatures, a sustained

development over 120 years
The production of cryogenic temperatures almost always
utilizes the compression and expansion of gases. In a
typical air liquefaction process the air is compressed,
causing it to heat, and allowed to cool back to room
temperature while still pressurized. The compressed air is
further cooled in a heat exchanger before it is allowed to
expand back
to atmospheric pressure. The expansion causes the air to
cool and a portion of it to liquefy. The remaining cooled
gaseous portion is returned through the other side of the
heat exchanger where it precools the incoming highpressure air before returning to the compressor. The liquid
portion is usually distilled to produce liquid oxygen, liquid
nitrogen, and liquid argon. Other gases, such as helium,
are used in a similar process to
produce even lower temperatures, but several stages of
expansion are necessary.


The field of cryogenics advanced during World War II
when scientists found that metals frozen to low
temperatures showed more resistance to wear. Based on
this theory of cryogenic hardening, the commercial
cryogenic processing industry was founded in 1966 by Ed
Busch. With a background in the heat treating industry,
Busch founded a company in Detroit called CryoTech in
1966. Though CryoTech later merged with 300 Below to
create the largest and oldest commercial cryogenics
company in the world, they originally experimented with
the possibility of increasing the life of metal tools to
anywhere between 200%-400% of the original life
expectancy using cryogenic tempering instead of heat
treating. This evolved in the late 1990s into the treatment
of other parts (that did more than just increase the life of a
product) such as amplifier valves (improved sound
quality), baseball bats (greater sweet spot), golf clubs
(greater sweet spot), racing engines (greater performance
under stress), firearms (less warping after continuous
shooting), knives, razor blades, brake rotors and even
pantyhose. The theory was based on how heat-treating
metal works (the temperatures are lowered to room
temperature from a high degree causing certain strength
increases in the molecular structure to occur) and
supposed that continuing the descent would allow for
further strength increases. Using liquid nitrogen,

CryoTech formulated the first early version of the

cryogenic processor. Unfortunately for the newly-born
industry, the results were unstable, as components
sometimes experienced thermal shock when they were
cooled too quickly. Some components in early tests even
shattered because of the ultra-low temperatures. In the late
twentieth century, the field improved significantly with
the rise of applied research, which coupled
microprocessor based industrial controls to the cryogenic
processor in order to create more stable results.
Cryogens, like liquid nitrogen, are further used for
specialty chilling and freezing applications. Some
chemical reactions, like those used to produce the active
ingredients for the popular statin drugs, must occur at low
temperatures of approximately 100 C. Special cryogenic
chemical reactors are used to remove reaction heat and
provide a low temperature environment. The freezing of
foods and biotechnology products, like vaccines, requires
nitrogen in blast freezing or immersion freezing systems.
Certain soft or elastic materials become hard and brittle at
very low temperatures, which makes cryogenic milling
(cryomilling) an option for some materials that cannot
easily be milled at higher temperatures.
Cryogenic processing is not a substitute for heat treatment,
but rather an extension of the heating - quenching tempering cycle. Normally, when an item is quenched, the
final temperature is ambient. The only reason for this is
that most heat treaters do not have cooling equipment.
There is nothing metallurgically significant about ambient
temperature. The cryogenic process continues this action
from ambient temperature down to 320 F (140 R;
78 K; 196 C). In most instances the cryogenic cycle is
followed by a heat tempering procedure. As all alloys do
not have the same chemical constituents, the tempering
procedure varies according to the material's chemical
composition, thermal history and/or a tool's particular
service application.

The entire process takes 34 days.


Cryogenic freezing is a type of freezing which requires
extremely low temperatures, generally below -238
Fahrenheit (-150 Celsius). Research in this field ranges
from basic studies on severe cold to applied research in
which cryogenics is applied to various issues confronted
by humans. Just generating the extremely cold
temperatures required for cryogenic freezing requires a lot
of work. It's not as simple as turning up the refrigerator,
because refrigeration components can only get so cold.
Typically, cryogenic freezing relies on the use of liquified
gases such as helium. These gases can only exist in a
liquid state at extremely cold temperatures, which means
that once the gas is in liquid form, it can be used to

Cryogenic freezing is utilized to temper high-end metal

products and certain other industrial products. The use of
cryogenics appears to improve the strength and
performance of such products, and it can be used for tasks
which vary from creating extra-strong knives to making
baseball bats. Cryogenics is also utilized in the lab
environment to create cold temperature for various
experiments, and cryogenic freezing is one method for
producing specialized fuels like rocket fuel.
The food industry utilizes cryogenic freezing to flash
freeze fresh foods so that their nutrients and texture will
be largely preserved. Flash freezing can be seen in use
everyone from fishing boats to plants which prepare TV
dinners. In the medical profession, cryogenic freezing is
used to preserve vaccines so that they will remain stable
and viable for administration. Once frozen at such low
temperatures, objects can remain frozen with the use of
special refrigeration units, including mobile units with
liquefied gases which permit cryogenically frozen objects
People sometimes confuse cryogenic freezing with
cryonics, the field of preserving human bodies in freezing
conditions with the goal of reviving them at some point in
the future. Cryonics relies on the idea that advances in the
sciences are constantly occurring, and that while it may
not be currently possible to bring someone back from the
dead, this could happen in the future, so people who want
another chance at life may opt for cryonic preservation so
that their bodies will be available for reanimation.


Another use of cryogenics is cryogenic fuels. Cryogenic
fuels, mainly liquid hydrogen, have been used as rocket
fuels. Liquid oxygen is used as an oxidizer of hydrogen,
but oxygen is not, strictly speaking, a fuel. For example,
NASA's workhorse space shuttle uses cryogenic hydrogen
fuel as its primary means of getting into orbit, as did all of
the rockets built for the Soviet space program by Sergei
Korolev. (This was a bone of contention between him and
rival engine designer Valentin Glushko, who felt that
cryogenic fuels were impractical for large-scale rockets
such as the ill-fated N-1 rocket spacecraft.)
Russian aircraft manufacturer Tupolev is currently
researching a version of its popular design Tu-154 with a
cryogenic fuel system, known as the Tu-155. The plane
uses a fuel referred to as liquefied natural gas or LNG, and
made its first flight in 1989.

freezing point. Thus we can say that super cooled gases

used as liquid fuels are called cryogenic fuels.
These propellants are gases at normal atmospheric
conditions. But to store these propellants aboard a rocket
is a very difficult task as they have very low densities.
Hence extremely huge tanks will be required to store the
propellants. Thus by cooling and compressing them into
liquids, we can vastly increase their density and make it
possible to store them in large quantities in smaller tanks.
Normally the propellant combination used is that of liquid
oxygen and liquid hydrogen, Liquid oxygen being the
oxidizer and liquid hydrogen being the fuel. Liquid
oxygen boils at 297oF and liquid hydrogen boils at 423oF.
As we now know the properties of cryogenic fuels, we can
proceed further and see how they are employed to impart
thrust to the rockets.

High-density, low-viscosity fluids

In line with its historical development, cryogenics remains
largely used today for densification, liquefaction and
separation by distillation of gases and gas mixtures.
Although competing with other, non-cryogenic separation
processes, gas liquefaction is second to none when
purification is critical or difficult, e.g. tritium separation
and recovery, or when the final product must be kept at
maximum density, either for compact transport - liquid
rocket propellants and liquid natural gas tankers or
particle beam interactions liquid hydrogen targets, noble
liquid ionization chambers and calorimeters, and cold
neutron sources.
In liquid-hydrogen fuelled rockets, which have developed
to very powerful launch vehicles operating with industrial
reliability (Figure 2), subcooled liquid12 and even solidliquid mixtures (slush) could further increase the mass
of propellant per unit volume of tan

India developed the technology in 2008 for use in their

GSLV rockets.

Cryogenic propellants
In a cryogenic propellant the fuel and the oxidizer are in
the form of very cold, liquefied gases. These liquefied
gases are referred to as super cooled as they stay in liquid
form even though they are at a temperature lower than the


natural convection. Pioneering experiments have recently

been conducted on controlled flows at very high Reynolds
and Rayleigh numbers using cryogenic helium.
High Energy per unit mass
Propellants like oxygen and hydrogen in liquid form give
very high amounts of energy per unit mass due to which
the amount of fuel to be carried aboard the rockets
Clean Fuels
Hydrogen and oxygen are extremely clean fuels. When
they combine, they give out only water. This water is
thrown out of the nozzle in form of very hot vapor. Thus
the rocket is nothing but a high burning steam engine.
Figure 2. Cryogenic liquid rocket propulsion (a) Ariane 5
(25 t H2, 130 t O2)
(b) Space Shuttle (100 t H2, 600 t O2)
If hydrogen, in spite of its low molecular mass, is to
become a widespread energy vector the hydrogen
economy is repeatedly announced as a possible solution
to the issues of growing energy consumption and
environmental protection in industrialized countries
there is no doubt that its cryogenic liquid form will play
an important role, as it already does today in the fuel tanks
of prototype cars and commercial vehicles, in conjunction
with internal-combustion engines or fuel cells.
Cryogenic liquids show particular characteristics,
requiring special attention or opening new possibilities for
their use. In view of their low critical temperatures and
moderate critical pressures, cryogens are often used in the
supercritical domain, with continuous transition from the
liquid to the gaseous phase and divergence of some
thermodynamic properties at the critical point. Several
extended superconducting devices strings of magnets in
particle accelerators or single large magnets - are cooled
by forced flow of single-phase supercritical helium, thus
avoiding the risk of two-phase instabilities.15 The
combination of high heat capacity and low viscosity
exhibited by liquid and superfluid helium make them
irreplaceable as stabilizing medium against thermal
disturbances in superconducting devices.16
As viscosity decreases at low temperature, liquid or
vapour flows become highly turbulent, with the prospect
of reaching very high Reynolds numbers in laboratory
experiments of limited size, a tool of choice to investigate
scaling laws of fluid turbulence. Moreover, the
simultaneous variation of density and viscosity with
temperature enables to preserve both the Reynolds and the
Mach similarity conditions in scale model flows: this is
the rationale for cryogenic wind tunnels, essential tools for
the wing design of transonic aircraft where
compressibility effects can no longer be neglected.
Finally, the large volume expansion ratio at low
temperature yields high Rayleigh numbers and strong

Use of oxygen and hydrogen as fuels is very economical,
as liquid oxygen costs less than gasoline.
Cryogenic propellants suffer from certain drawbacks. Let
us see what these drawbacks are and how they can be


The second-law thermodynamic penalty of operating at
low temperature can be much worsened by the presence of
internal irreversibilities impacting on the overall
efficiency of the refrigerator, and hence on its capacity
and energy consumption. For cryogenic plants producing
several kW of cooling power, the main factor driving the
optimization of refrigeration cycles and the choice of
machinery compressors, heat exchangers, expanders,
valves is therefore second-law efficiency, achieved by
limiting irreversibilities in heat transfer and fluid flow. In
this fashion, the large cryogenic helium refrigerators
(Figure 3) which all operate today on variants of the
Claude cycle, have seen their efficiency improve
significantly over the past decades to reach some 30 % of
the reversible Carnot cycle, an excellent performance for
thermodynamic machines operating between 4.5 K and
300 K.18 Moreover, in case of strongly varying load, this
performance can be preserved over a wide dynamic range
thanks to elaborate control techniques implemented on
programmable logic controllers and computers. These
machines operate continuously for more than 6000 hours
per year, showing availability in excess of 99% and
requiring only one yearly scheduled maintenance period.
It is the advent of such efficient and reliable industrial
helium refrigerators which opened the way to the largescale applications of superconductivity mentioned in the
first section.

Liquefied gases are sprayed on the cables to keep them

cool and reduce their resistance.
Cryosurgery : It is the use of extreme cold to treat cancer.
For external tumours,liquid nitrogen (at -196C or 77 K) is
applied directly to the skin. For internal tumours, Liquid
nitrogen is circulated through a cryoprobe, which freezes
and destroys the cancer cells. This procedure offers the
advantage of very quick patient recovery time.


Figure 4. Cryosurgery

Figure 3. 18 kW at 4.5 K helium cryogenic plants for the
LHC by (a) Air Liquide and (b) Linde

Food Freezing: Cryogenic gases are used in transportation

of large masses of frozen food. When very large quantity
of food must be transported to regions like war field,
earthquake hit regions etc they must be stored for a long
time. So cryogenic food freezing is used. Cryogenic food
freezing is also helpful for large scale food processing

Some applications of cryogenics are:
Magnetic Resonance Imaging[MRI]: MRI is a method of
imaging objects that uses a strong magnetic field to detect
the relaxation of protons that have been perturbed by a
radio-frequency pulse. This magnetic field is generated by
electromagnets, and high field strengths can be achieved
by using superconducting magnets. Traditionally, liquid
helium is used to cool the coils because it has a boiling
point of around 4 K at ambient pressure, and cheap
metallic superconductors can be used for the coil wiring.
So-called high-temperature superconducting compounds
can be made to superconduct with the use of liquid
nitrogen which boils at around 77 K.

Blood Banking: Certain blood groups which are rare are

stored at very low temperatures such as -165 degree C.

Cryogenic cooling of devices and material is usually
achieved via the use of liquid nitrogen, liquid helium, or a
cryocompressor (which uses high pressure helium lines).
Newer devices such as pulse cryocoolers and Stirling
cryocoolers have been devised. The most recent
development in cryogenics is the use of magnets as
regenerators as well as refrigerators. These devices work
on the principle known as the magnetocaloric effect.

Power Transmission in Big Cities: It is difficult to

transmit power by over head cables in big cities. So
underground cables are used. But underground cables get
heated and the resistance of the wire increases leading to
wastage of power. This can be solved by cryogenics.

Cryogenics is seldom appearing as an academic subject in
the syllabus of universities and engineering schools. It is
rather a combination of scientific and technical
disciplines, applied to the realm of low temperatures
which make process analysis, equipment design and
machine construction less forgiving, thus demanding
knowledge, rigour and ingenuity from the cryogenic
engineer, but also providing him with particular insights in
many aspects of these diverse disciplines. As an example
of this, consider the rather abstract concept of entropy: in
a low-temperature process, the loss of exergy useable
energy, an entity much more accessible to intuition is
largely dominated by entropy generation, thus rendering
the latter more amenable to the cryogenic students
understanding. In a similar fashion, the study and practice
of cryogenics make its students fully conversant with
phase transitions, supercritical fluids, two-phase flows,
non-linear heat transfer regimes, flow instabilities and
other such oddities frequently appearing, though not
necessarily at low temperature, in the field of advanced
science and technology. On a more technical level,
cryogenic construction requires the mastering of structural
materials, assembly and joining techniques, leak testing
and quality assurance procedures, thus constituting a
school of excellence for the engineering student as for the
technical trainee.

Cryogenics, Key to Advanced Science and

Technology - by Philippe Lebrun

Cryogenics - Ray Radebaugh


This rapid survey of cryogenics in advanced science and
technology shows that after a century of parallel progress
and synergetic growth, it is clearly here to stay and
equally clearly will further develop along with the variety
of fields it Zerves today.
The future of cryogenics materials will be very exciting
and dynamic. It will be driven by traditions, trends, costs,
performance, legislation. Of these, the most critical issue
is costs. Logical, creative and inovative ideas will have
little chance of success if the economics are not positive.
Cryogenics materials will be part of the dynamic future.
By considering the entire cryogenics materials, we are not
limited to just one type of materials, but metal materials,
composites and fluorinated polymers will remain the
major materials for applications at very low temperatures.


An introduction to cryogenics - Adam L.