Coals to Newcastle — Cryogenics in Antarctica
The National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Program requires liquid oxygen, nitrogen and helium to support scientific research in Antarctica. Biologists employ liquid nitrogen refrigeration to freeze, store and transport cell samples. Astrophysicists cool detectors with liquid helium and liquid nitrogen to eliminate noise and enhance sensitivity to radiation in the microwave and far infrared. Gamma ray detectors are maintained at liquid nitrogen temperature. Meteorologists use cryogen cooled instruments to analyze pollutants in the atmosphere, including those believed to be responsible for loss of ozone in the stratosphere. Aviators breathing oxygen is stored aboard aircraft in the liquid state.
Cryogens must be supplied, thousands of miles from industrial sources, to an area which can receive ocean freight less than one month each year. Air freight is limited to three to six months and is often dependent on ski equipped aircraft of limited cargo capacity. Ambient temperatures vary from 200 to 280 K (-100 to +40 F). Wind and snow are frequent hazards. Supplying the program needs involves specially selected equipment and procedures to overcome these problems safely.
This paper describes some of these applications and the techniques developed to supply Cryogens along with descriptions of life and work in this most remote continent.
KeywordsLiquid Helium Pressure Swing Adsorbent Liquid Oxygen Cargo Capacity McMurdo Station
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