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What's a Cryocooler?

A cryocooler is a mechanical refrigerator designed to cool an application down to cryogenics temperatures.  A sort of workingman's definition of cryogenic temperatures is temperatures below around 123 K, which equals -150°C or -238°F.  In this temperature range and below, a number of physical phenomena begin to change rapidly from room temperature behaviors, and new phenomena achieve greatly increased importance.  Thus, the field of cryogenics temperatures typically involves a whole set of new temperature-specific discipline skills, operational constraints, and testing methodologies.  One of these special attributes of cryogenics is the science and engineering of achieving cryogenic temperatures, in our case the development of cryogenic refrigerators—called cryocoolers.

Applications of cryocoolers can extend from a hospital Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine, to a long-wave instrument on a space telescope, to a night-vision scope on a military battlefield.  A number of cryocoolers technologies can provide this cooling.  Leading technology types include: Stirling, pulse-tube, Gifford-McMahon, Joule-Thomson and Brayton.  All of these types are included in the focus of the International Cryocooler Conference.

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