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Air Squared News

Cryogenic Scroll Pump Awarded Phase I SBIR Funding

With DOE funding to support high-energy physics experiments, Air Squared will develop the world’s first cryogenic scroll pump — the CryoScroll™. The reliable, elegant, electrically driven pump will be capable of pumping multi-phase cryogenic fluids.

CryoScroll™ Prototype Concept Rendering
CryoScroll™ Prototype Concept Rendering

Broomfield, CO — Air Squared has been awarded Phase I Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) funding through the US Department of Energy (DOE). Under the topic High Energy Physics Detectors and Instrumentation, the DOE is looking to advance the state of the art and reduce the cost associated with specialized particle and radiation detection. The DOE has several planned particle physics experiments that require specialized detectors, such as the High Luminosity upgrade of the Large Hadron Collider (HL-LHC), the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (DUNE), and next-generation direct searches for dark matter. Air Squared proposed a submerged cryogenic scroll pump for the subtopic Technology for Large Cryogenic Detectors (29H), which identifies the need for large-scale cryogenic detectors.

DOE-supported high-energy experiments, such as DUNE, plan to run large detectors continuously for up to thirty years. In the case of DUNE, the 1.5–km deep detectors are filled with 70,000 tons of liquid argon (LAr), which requires constant filtration of the LAr within the cryostat to maintain proper purity levels and accurately observe proton decay. Results have shown a strong correlation between particle lifetime and LAr purity. To provide constant filtration, the DOE requires a highly reliable low-vibration cryogenic LAr pump.

The current solution is centrifugal turbopumps that rely on high impeller speeds (i.e., over 10,000 RPM) to create a differential pressure. While this high-speed operation allows centrifugal pumps to be very compact, it also significantly reduces life span, as pump bearings need to be replaced every 5,000 hours (i.e., service every five to seven months). The frequent service interval greatly increases the risk of LAr contamination, so there is a substantial need for an extended-life cryogenic pump that can operate for years without service.

In the Phase I effort, Air Squared will develop the world’s first cryogenic scroll pump — aptly named the “CryoScroll™.” If successful, the CryoScroll will be a reliable, elegant, electrically driven pump, capable of pumping multi-phase cryogenic LAr. The CryoScroll will be capable of maintaining the required differential pressure of 50 psig at speeds under 1,000 RPM and handling a wide range of cryostat capacities.

CryoScroll Installed in LAr Tank
CryoScroll Installed in LAr Tank

To evaluate the feasibility the CryoScroll, Air Squared will first design, fabricate, and test a subscale CryoScroll prototype that is capable of 1/10th of the required flow. The prototype will be tested using liquid nitrogen. If successful, Air Squared will apply for Phase II SBIR funding, which will allow for development of a full-scale prototype and commercialization of the CryoScroll technology across other cryogenic pumping applications, such as the pumping of liquid hydrogen and liquid natural gas for storage and distribution.

About Air Squared

Air Squared is the industry leader in oil-free scroll design and manufacturing. By introducing a simple design with fewer moving parts, scroll technology has established itself as a highly efficient, very reliable, cost-effective alternative. Through a growing line of compressors, vacuum pumps, and expanders, Air Squared makes the many advantages of oil-free scroll technology available to OEMs worldwide.

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy under SBIR Solicitation Number DE-FOA-0001417. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Energy.

UPDATE (April 10th, 2018) – After accomplishing most of the CPMs during a successful Phase I effort, Air Squared was not awarded Phase II SBIR funding from the Department of Energy to continue development.

UPDATE (July 10th, 2018) – NASA has awarded Air Squared a Phase I SBIR and Phase II SBIR to continue development of cryogenic scroll technology.