A Scotland County R-I graduate has played a part in a recent scientific breakthrough that will greatly benefit research being performed in low-temperature environments.
Ryan Morgan is a member of the Advanced Research Systems, Inc., which has licensed a technology designed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory to automatically refill liquid helium used in laboratory equipment for low-temperature scientific experiments, which will reduce downtime, recover more helium and increase overall efficiency.
Advanced Research Systems, Inc., began in 1986 by CEO and founder Ravi Bains to provide cryogenic solutions for low-temperature research. Based in Macungie, Pennsylvania, ARS has evolved as a world-class manufacturer of closed cycle cryocoolers and laboratory cryogenic systems. Michael Holmes and Lou Santodonato are co-presidents of ARS.
“There is a crisis in helium supply, and the cost is rapidly rising,” ARS co-president Lou Santodonato said. “A growing part of our business is helium recycling.”
“And, as the supply dwindles, our customers want to stretch their liquid helium supplies further through recycling solutions,” he added.
At standard pressure, the noble gas helium turns to liquid at minus 270 degrees Celsius. The super coolant is needed in labs that use cryostat devices to hold samples exposed to extreme cold during highly sensitive scientific experiments.
Quantum materials, fundamental particle physics, magnetism and other cryogenic-related studies use liquid helium and cryostats as standard tools for research. At ORNL, efficient time and equipment management are critical to ensure scientists can run their experiments well.
Co-inventors of the Liquid Helium Auto Fill technology include Morgan, Chris Redmon, Saad Elorfi, and Mariano Ruiz from ORNL.
Chris Redmon presented the theory of an automated process for helium refills. Ryan Morgan performed the electrical design, chassis layout, and programmed the operational logic to coincide with the ARS system that was currently being utilized. Mariano Ruiz programmed the interface to the control system EPICS and wrote LabView drivers to expand the interface capabilities of the LHeAF. Saad Elorfi performed the application testing and data acquisition in the field and provided feedback to fine tune the system.
ORNL’s Chris Redmon and his team developed LHeAF initially to shorten operational downtime and reduce the need for workers to manually refill cryostats, an act that required two technicians one hour per day during an experiment’s run.
“Using off-the-shelf components, we created an auto-fill prototype that met the unique specifications for the beamlines at our facilities that use liquid helium as a coolant,” Redmon said. The inventors first ran LHeAF simulations at the High Flux Isotope Reactor, a DOE User Facility. They then refined the technology at the Spallation Neutron Source, also a DOE User Facility. Both facilities are located at ORNL.
The team tested the auto-fill capability with different cryostats, checking for fill efficiency and reliability. “Eventually, LHeAF was able to run uninterrupted for 10 days without intervention,” Redmon said. “Since most experiments at the HFIR and SNS last three to six days, that’s a significant time and cost savings for scientists, facilities and the lab.”
Cryostat manufacturer ARS plans to add the component known as LHeAF, for liquid helium auto fill, to the company’s existing liquid helium management product line. Developed by the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory, LHeAF allows for weeks versus days of uninterrupted, and safer, operation and less helium loss compared to manual filling.
UT-Battelle manages ORNL for DOE’s Office of Science. The Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov. For ORNL licensing information, contact www.ornl.gov/partnerships.
Ryan Morgan is the son of Jim and Linda Morgan of Memphis.
Original article by Carlos Jones, U.S. Department of Energy, Oak Ridge National Laboratory