More about Cryogenic Equipment
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Cryogenic equipment is used to generate, sustain or operate at extremely low temperatures. The generally acceptable division between refrigeration and cryogenics is minus 180 degrees Celsius. Typical equipment used in cryogenic applications includes containers, pressure vessels, cold traps, purifiers and piping. In many cases, this equipment holds or assists in the transport of supercooled liquids, such as liquid helium, nitrogen, oxygen and argon. Transfer lines, for example, provide a safe means to transfer liquid cryogens from one location to another without endangering workers or machinery.
Proper insulation is often key to the effectiveness of cryogenic components, as it ensures that temperature levels are maintained within the equipment. Similarly, insulation protects equipment users from dangerous temperatures and materials during handling. Of the liquids regularly used in cryogenic operations, nitrogen and helium are the most common; liquid helium allows for extremely low temperatures. Also important to most cryogenic equipment, especially valves, gages and piping systems, is the pressure rating of the unit; the majority of cryogenic systems have specific pressure requirements in order to retain fixed temperatures.
Among the most commonly used cryogenic equipment is a specialized container known as a Dewar flask, named for inventor Scot Sir James Dewar. Essentially a holding chamber within near vacuum, the Dewar flask prevents the transmission of heat from its contents due to conduction and convection. It also minimizes the transmission of heat through radiation by using selected reflective coatings for various surfaces within the flask. In cryogenic applications, Dewar flasks are typically used as holding tanks for the selected cryogenic liquid.
Regular applications for cryogenic equipment include freezing and cooling; enhancing certain chemical reactions; medical, biomedical and chemical storage; and metal processing. Various liquid cryogens are also used as fuel in aerospace and rocketry. A variety of research laboratories also utilize cryogens and cryogenic equipment, which can be essential in certain technology and electronics operations.