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Pulse tubes

Published on 6 April 2020
For applications where lifetime and induced vibrations are important parameters, which is the case for scientific space missions (observation of the Earth, the universe, meteorology, etc.), pulse tubes technology is very suitable.
These systems, based on the oscillations of a thermo-acoustic wave in a tube, allow temperature ranges between 4 K and 120 K to be reached. Several projects are being studied at DSBT in order to develop different ranges of pulse tubes. Here are a few examples:

The Large Pulse Tube Cooler
Together with its partners, the DSBT has developed pulse tubes operating at 50 K, the Large Pulse Tube Coolers (LPTC). Now transferred to Air Liquide, the latter has used this principle to produce the flight models for the next meteorology satellites (MTG), with Thales Cryogenics manufacturing the compressors. This new generation of satellites will enable a quantum leap in weather predictions for the coming years. Two other space programs are also based on these coolers, for 24 LPTC flight models manufactured.

Artist's view of the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) satellite, which will carry pulse tubes on board.

Based on similar products, ground models are manufactured by Thales Cryogenics for on-board applications requiring significant cooling.

The 15 K Pulse Tube
Developed in collaboration with Air Liquide and Thales Cryogenics, through a European Space Agency program, this pulse tube offers more than 400 mW of cold power available at 15 K. It can also evacuate 2 W at an intermediate temperature of 80 K. This performance have qualified it to be part of the cooling equipment to be embarked on the LiteBIRD (scheduled for 2028) and ATHENA (by 2032) missions..

The PT15K is a pulse tube designed at DSBT (in gold, with its compressor).
Credit Air Liquide.

The two-stage Pulse Tube
This small system couples two stages, each operating on the same pulse tube principle. The first stage reaches an intermediate temperature of 120 K, while the second stage can provide 420 mW of cooling capacity at 30 K. Given its small size (very compact, it fits in the hand with its 15 cm height by 10 cm diameter), it offers unique performances on the European market for this range.

Two-stage pulse tube.