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Extremely Low Temperature Systems

By Nancy Easterbrook, Tim Boland, and Dave Farese, Air Products |

Understanding the nuances of low-temperature engineering is key to safe and efficient operations Figure 1. This temperature scale from 212°F to absolute zero shows the boiling points of nitrogen, oxygen, and helium[/caption] Extremely low temperatures — below –100°F (–73.3°C) — have many widely diverse commercial uses, from de-flashing of molded rubber parts on the plant floor to pristine storage of biological materials in the medical and pharmaceutical industries. Understanding the special characteristics of low-temperature fluids and systems, and properly managing the associated risks, are important to the safe design and handling of low-temperature processes. Temperatures this cold (Figure 1) rarely occur naturally, but are commonly found in modern industry and healthcare. Two technologies are typically used to generate extremely low temperatures: consumable refrigerant systems, which use products such as liquid nitrogen or dry ice, and mechanical refrigeration systems. While both mechanical refrigeration and consumable refrigerant systems share common risks of operating at extremely low temperatures, they have different costs and operational characteristics. Selecting the right technology to generate low temperatures…
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