A cryocooler, and Alan Caughley (left) and Neil Glasson (right) in front of a prototype, holding a metal diaphragm (Images: IRL)
While cryocoolers have been around for a long time, they are generally found in the space and research industry where costs can be much higher. The cyrocoolers at IRL are being designed for industrial use with high temperature superconductors which require temperatures of up to minus 200ºC to function, and are found in motors, generators, transformers, cables, scanning and NMR magnets.
The cryocoolers being developed use a double metal diaphragm system to generate pressure waves. In turn, these waves drive the cooling mechanism in the "pulse tube", which reduce the temperatures down to cryogenic levels. Ruth Beran goes to the IRL workshop in Christchurch to see some of the cryocooler prototypes.