Member news: Ultra-low temperatures. NIST creates a more efficient pulse-tube refrigerator prototype

American researchers have created a prototype pulse-tube refrigerator that significantly reduces the time and energy required to reach temperatures close to absolute zero: an exciting advance for the quantum industry.

Ultra-low temperature refrigeration is crucial for diverse applications, from stabilising qubits in quantum computing to maintaining the superconducting properties of materials and cooling the James Webb Space Telescope.  
 American researchers from NIST have optimised a pulsating tube refrigerator. It significantly reduces the time and energy required to cool materials to temperatures near absolute zero. 
This innovation, which modifies commonly used pulse-tube refrigerators, could save up to 27 million watts per year.   
By optimising the flow of helium gas and changing the mechanical connections, the researchers have improved cooling efficiency, reducing cooling time by half or more. This technology could speed up scientific research by enabling faster cooling and reducing the size of refrigerators needed to reach extremely low temperatures. Their work was published on April 23 in Nature Communications. 

NIST has been a corporate member of the IIR since 1988.


Illustration of a pulse tube refrigerator
Illustration of a pulse-tube refrigerator © S. Kelley/NIST



Snodgrass, R., Kotsubo, V., Backhaus, S. et al. Dynamic acoustic optimization of pulse tube refrigerators for rapid cooldown. Nat Commun 15, 3386 (2024).