A design of an Active Magnetic Regenerative Refrigeration (AMRR) system has been developed for space applications. It uses an innovative 3He cryogenic circulator to provide continuous remote/distributed cooling at temperatures in the range of 2 K with a heat sink at about 15 K. A critical component technology for this cooling system is a highly efficient active magnetic regenerator, which is a regenerative heat exchanger with its matrix material made of magnetic refrigerant gadolinium gallium garnet (GGG).

Microchannels in a 150-μm thick GGG disk fabricated by ultra-short pulse laser micromachining.
Creare Inc. is developing a microchannel GGG regenerator with an anisotropic structured bed for high system thermal efficiency. The regenerator core consists of a stack of thin, single-crystal GGG disks alternating with thin polymer insulating layers. The insulating layers help minimize the axial conduction heat leak, since GGG has a very high thermal conductivity in the regenerator’s operating temperature range. The GGG disks contain microchannels with width near 100 micrometers, which enhance the heat transfer between the circulating flow and the refrigerant bed. The unique flow configuration of the GGG plates ensures a uniform flow distribution across the plates.

The main fabrication challenges for the regenerator are the machining of high-aspect- ratio microchannels in fragile, single- crystal GGG disks and fabrication and assembly of the GGG insulation layers. Feasibility demonstrations to date include use of an ultra-short-pulse laser to machine microchannels without producing unacceptable microcracking or deposition of recast material, as shown in the figure, and attachment of a thin insulation layer to a GGG disk without obstructing the flow paths. At the time of this reporting, efforts were focused on improving the laser machining process to increase machining speed and further reduce microcracking.

This work was done by Weibo Chen and Michael D. Jaeger of Creare Incorporated for Goddard Space Flight Center. GSC-16220-1