Cryogenic system delivers the cold to AIG

The Astronomical Instrumentation Group (AIG) at the University of Lethbridge, a research group led by Dr. David Naylor, has taken delivery of a cryogenic system that is being used to evaluate the performance of detectors that will be on board the Herschel Space Observatory set to launch on Apr. 16.

With funding from the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, the pulse tube cooler allows researchers to test instrumentation at temperatures down to 0.3 K above absolute zero.

Dr. Darren Hayton, the project manager for the AIG's Canadian Space Agency-funded SPICA/SAFARI study, said that the device does not use expensive helium or liquid nitrogen, and allows researchers to conjure up any experiment that requires cooling to 0.3 K and maintain that temperature for up to 77 hours.

"This technology will undoubtedly find its way into other fields requiring low temperatures," Hayton says. "The ability to try out new concepts on a daily basis without the requirement for liquid cryogens, which are not only expensive, but also inherently dangerous and challenging to handle, represents a significant shift in how we operate."

The product is considered to be revolutionary in the physics research community and according to manufacturer Oxford Instruments, the University of Lethbridge and the AIG has the first cryofree system in Canada and one of a precious few in North America.