Future astrophysics missions require efficient, low-temperature cryocoolers to cool advanced instruments or serve as the upper stage cooler for sub-Kelvin refrigerators. Potential astrophysics missions include Lynx, the Origin Space Telescope, and the Superconducting Gravity Gradiometer. Cooling loads for these missions are up to 300 mW at temperatures of 4 to 10 K, with additional loads at higher temperatures for other subsystems. Due to low jitter requirements, a cryocooler with very low vibration is needed for many missions. In addition, a multi-stage cooler, capable of providing refrigeration at more than one temperature simultaneously, can provide the greatest system efficiency with the lowest mass. Turbo-Brayton cryocoolers have space heritage and are ideal for these missions due to negligible vibration emittance and high efficiency at low temperatures. The primary limitation in implementing Brayton cryocoolers at temperatures below 10 K has been the development of high efficiency turbines. On the proposed program, Creare plans to leverage recent developments in gas bearing technology and low-temperature alternators to realize a high-efficiency, low-temperature turbine. On the Phase I project, we will perform a proof-of-concept demonstration of the turbine technology at temperatures down to 4 K. On the Phase II project, we will build and demonstrate an advanced low-temperature turbine at temperatures of 4 to 10 K.
The successful completion of this program will result in an extremely efficient low-temperature cryocooler with negligible vibration. This type of cryocooler is ideal as the upper-stage cryocooler or primary cooler for cooling advanced, low-temperature space instruments. Potential NASA missions include the Lynx, Origin Space Telescope, and the Superconducting Gravity Gradiometer.
The military market for the technology is for cooling hyperspectral imaging systems on space‑based observation, surveillance, and missile defense systems. Commercial applications for this technology include cooling for communication satellites; superconducting instruments, digital filters, and magnets; low‑temperature gas‑separation systems; hypercomputers; and Superconducting Quantum Interference Devices (SQUIDs).