A modification of the design of the pulse tube in a pulse-tube cryocooler reduces axial thermal conductance while preserving radial thermal conductance. It is desirable to minimize axial thermal conductance in the pulse-tube wall to minimize leakage of heat between the warm and cold ends of the pulse tube. At the same time, it is desirable to maximize radial thermal conductance at the cold end of the pulse tube to ensure adequate thermal contact between (1) a heat exchanger in the form of a stack of copper screens inside the pulse tube at the cold end and (2) the remainder of the cold tip, which is the object to which the heat load is applied and from which heat must be removed. The modified design yields a low-heat-leak pulse tube that can be easily integrated with a cold tip.

A typical pulse tube of prior design is either a thin-walled metal tube or a metal tube with a nonmetallic lining. It is desirable that the outer surface of a pulse tube be cylindrical (in contradistinction to tapered) to simplify the design of a regenerator that is also part of the cryocooler. Under some conditions, it is desirable to taper the inner surface of the pulse tube to reduce acoustic streaming. The combination of a cylindrical outer surface and a tapered inner surface can lead to unacceptably large axial conduction if the pulse tube is made entirely of metal. Making the pulse-tube wall of a nonmetallic, low-thermal-conductivity material would not solve the problem because the wall would not afford the needed thermal contact for the stack of screens in the cold end.

The modified design calls for fabricating the pulse tube in two parts: a longer, nonmetallic part that is tapered on the inside and cylindrical on the outside and a shorter, metallic part that is cylindrical on both the inside and the outside. The nonmetallic part can be made from G-10 fiberglass-reinforced epoxy or other lowthermal- conductivity, cryogenically compatible material. The metallic part must have high thermal conductivity in the cryogenic temperature range and would typically be made of pure copper to satisfy this requirement. The metallic part is bonded to the nonmetallic part with epoxy. Copper screens are inserted in the metallic part to form the cold-end heat exchanger, then the assembled pulse tube is inserted in the cold tip.

This work was done by Jerry L. Martin and Jason H. Cloyd of Mesoscopic Devices, LLC for Johnson Space Center. For further information, contact:

Jerry L. Martin

Mesoscopic Devices, LLC

510 Compton Street, Suite 106

Broomfield, CO 80020

Phone No.: (303) 466-6968

Refer to MSC-23522.

NASA Tech Briefs Magazine

This article first appeared in the September, 2007 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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