Low-Cost, High-Performance Brayton Cryocooler
Navy SBIR FY2018.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2018.1
Topic No.: N181-041
Topic Title: Low-Cost, High-Performance Brayton Cryocooler
Proposal No.: N181-041-0262
Firm: Concepts NREC, LLC
217 Billings Farm Road
White River Jct, Vermont 5001
Contact: Dimitri Deserranno
Phone: (802) 280-6126
Web Site: http://www.conceptsnrec.com
Abstract: The Navy requires affordable and robust cryogenic cooling solutions for use in High Temperature Superconducting (HTS) cable technology. Currently, gaseous helium is cooled by a cryocooler through a cryogenic heat exchanger and circulated using a helium circulation fan through a superconducting cable. While Stirling refrigerators are commonly used in the cryogenics industry, they do not scale well to large capacities and inherently exhibit significant vibration due to their piston-based operation. Therefore, Concepts NREC (CN) proposes to develop a reverse-Brayton cryocooler. Reverse-Brayton cryocoolers offer several unique advantages, such as high-capacity cooling at high efficiency, and long life without maintenance due to wear-free and vibration-free components. Indeed, reverse-Brayton cryocoolers are inherently high-capacity systems, and rely on turbomachinery with noncontact bearings, resulting in wear-free and vibration-free operation. During Phase I, CN will complete the design of the cryocooler system, including its key components: the compressor, the turbine and the recuperator. During the Phase I Option, CN will perform risk reduction activities in preparation for Phase II. During Phase II, CN will build and test the cryocooler.
Benefits: Improvements to be expected from this technological development include a significant reduction in the initial cost of high-capacity, high-efficiency cryocoolers, as well as maintenance-free operation. These benefits will allow the Navy to reduce maintenance and life cycle costs for future High Temperature Superconducting cooling needs. Concepts NREC (CN) anticipates that a successful Phase I Base and Phase I Option will prepare the low-cost cryocooler design to sufficient maturity to enable a successful prototype demonstration during the Phase II effort, increasing the Technology Readiness Level to 5. With respect to commercialization, CN intends to offer the low-cost cryocooler developed in this program to the greater market in general. The worldwide market for industrial and commercial low-cost, high-capacity cryocoolers is developing based on a need for HTS cooling needs. Indeed, beyond the Navy, HTS applications are under consideration for superconducting motors for wind turbines as well as superconducting power distribution in the electrical grid. CN will offer the technology developed here to those markets. As the world economy continues to grow and HTS applications become more widespread, these industries will have an increased need for low-cost cryocoolers. Compounding this growth will be the increasing need for improved efficiency and performance in industrial processes.