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Hydrogen Properties for Energy Research (HYPER) Laboratory Cool. Fuel.

Cryo-cycling in place – Styrofoam cups and Silly Putty to the rescue!

In this past post, we discussed using cryo-cycling  to identify and fix possible cold leaks before installing equipment in the cryostat. This prevents a lot of problems before they can happen, often saving days of cool-down and warm-up if a test has to be called off. What happens, however, when the leak opens up cold? Your experiment is happily running along at cryogenic temperatures and, all of a sudden, that last temperature cycle proves too much. A crack is allowed to widen through an epoxy joint until you have a little leak and the test has to be called off. When you warm up, … » More …

The HYPER lab tube fitting guide

This post summarizes the use of Swagelok® Tube Fittings, which are used extensively in the HYPER lab. If you’re already familiar with tube fittings, you may want to skip to the best practices at the bottom. Most of this guide is pulled directly from “An Installer’s Pocket Guide for Swagelok® Tube Fittings.” If you haven’t read this already, you should! We have several physical copies around the lab.


What is a tube fitting?

Swagelok® Tube Fittings are also referred to … » More …

Saving money (and time!) with HYPER’s wiring system – Vacuum Feedthroughs

Due to the very cold nature of our work, we find ourselves needing to design (and redesign) vacuum chambers on a regular basis. In order to do useful research, this usually means trying to pass electrical signals through a high vacuum seal, which as you may expect, takes time and money. However, we’ve come up with a few tricks to reduce our time and dollar expenditures.

First, we reduce the cost of our vacuum feedthrough components. An example of a prebuilt solution is $551 for 7 connection pins, but we can build a 26 pin passthrough for around $120. To reduce the … » More …

Finding Cryogenic Material Propeties

Many people don’t consider from day to day how we know properties of any given material for use in design. It seems to be common knowledge that water freezes at 0°C, and it’s easy enough to look up thermal conductivities or heat capacity of common metals, gasses, and building materials. What happens, however, when your operating conditions are hundreds of degrees below room temperature? You can’t assume the same, easily found values anymore – you have to find someone who has taken the measurements at those extreme temperatures. So where do you go? Here’s a list of some good options we’ve used in the past … » More …

Cryogenic Seals using Indium

Finding a way to seal small, mobile molecules such as hydrogen and helium at cryogenic temperatures can be quite difficult. Most common seals break down at such cold temperatures, and even a tiny leak path can be catastrophic when working with flammable gasses and temperatures that can freeze the oxygen right out of the air. Luckily, we have wonder element 49: Indium. High purity indium has a lower melting point, and hardness than lead, making it malleable enough to be an effective sealing material. In addition, at high purities, indium readily pressure welds to itself, and bonds to other metals, glass, and ceramics.

In the … » More …

Cleaning Helium Compressors

The helium compressor that drives a cryocooler has to effectively reject the heat it’s removing from the helium stream to prevent itself from overheating, and keep the cryocooler cooling efficiently. In most cases, this means running a heat exchanger with a cooled water loop to keep everything cool. This can be very effective when you’re running high purity, clean water through the heat exchanger, but dirty, rusty, or impure water can reduce performance and foul the heat exchanger tubes. In the lab, we use a cooling loop independent from the building water paired with a water filter to help keep water as clean as possible … » More …

Compressed Gas Bottle Safety

Compressed gas bottle safety is important! Follow these simple rules to ensure your gas bottle stays a container – not a rocket.

Bottles should be chained at all times to prevent them from tipping over.
Steel caps need to be on bottles when not in use – especially for transportation.
Transport gas bottles on bottle carts.
Always use pressure relief devices when attaching high pressure bottles to systems.
Ensure lines are depressurized and bottle valve is shut before disconnecting the bottle from a system – even when the bottle is “empty”.
Flammable gas bottles should always be grounded before … » More …

ME 316 Lesson 8: Technology Development (TRLs)











As engineers, one of the things we all need to be mindful of throughout the design and development process is our stage in technology development. It’s pretty obvious that every technology we have today is supported by a long chain of discoveries, tests, research, and development to get to the products we have in front of us. Insight into where our current efforts fit in that chain can be extremely helpful in … » More …

Thermal Fluids Research Building (TFRB) Refurbishment

With the mass outpouring of support for the development and design of a hydrogen refueling station to submit to the DOE’s H2 refuel competition, we needed an effective design and work space large enough to support everyone. Luckily, we have around 5,000 square feet of space in the Thermal Fluids Research Building (TFRB) set aside for this project. Unfortunately, this space previously contained a wood shop and spare storage facilities, leaving much to be desired from a usability perspective. Several student volunteers have been coming in every day to help fix this project, and we have some bold plans to make the space a … » More …