Design and development of world leading cryocooler technology.
CLSS and BCS Life Support has amassed over 1000 research hour’s and 10 years of consulting to NASA. Employing personnel with over 100+ years combined experience at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, the CLSS team has extensive and varied experience which has put the company in the unique position to utilize the enormous market potential for the use of cryogenic Liquid Air.
WHY LIQUID AIR?
Compressed air has its own hazards because it’s stored at a high pressure. It’s also heavy and takes up a lot of space. Compressed 100 percent oxygen can present potential fire hazards. BCS partnered with NASA’s Biomedical Lab and the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) to develop zero-loss liquid air storage and a cryogenic breathing apparatus that works 90 degrees from vertical in any direction.
ABOUT LIQUID AIR
A technology used by NASA to protect crews working around hazardous gases soon could be called on for a number of life-saving applications as well as the agency’s new human spaceflight endeavors. The Cryogenic Refuge Alternative Supply System (CryoRASS) and a smaller liquid air-filled backpack under development in Kennedy Space Center’s Biomedical Lab have the potential to store more than twice the amount of breathable air than traditional compressed gas systems. Whilst one key advantage to the liquid air systems is improved safety, it also cools the worker minimising heat stress, and provides significantly longer breathe times on same sized units. The liquid air system has real applications in hazardous environments, rescue missions and below ground recovery scenarios. The challenge is having on-site zero loss liquid air production capability. CLSS have chosen AFCryos cryocoolers to partner with to overcome this challenge. AFCryo cryocoolers combined with the CLSS/NASA liquid filled backpacks now brings this technology to global market. Words and images courtesy of CLSS.
AFCryo has supplied one large PTC1000 full air to liquid nitrogen system to a client on Corsica Island that manufactures liquid and sells to industry and medical clients directly. The client has ordered a further two systems for delivery in February 2019 and then July 2019. The systems are fully autonomous, with HMI front end (pictured below). The system was initially built in New Zealand, with gas delivery system integrated in France, and full assembly commissioned in Corsica.
The system produces 360 litres of liquid nitrogen per day, stored into a maximum capacity 1000 litre dewar. The 1000 litre dewar allows the system run continuously over the weekend and build up storage volume of 1000 litres. The unit switches off when the dewar is fill and restarts once a minimum of 100 litres has been drawn off. All tranfill operations to client and delivery dewars is automated.
Fabrum Solutions is in the process of delivering a fully autonomous system into Tanzania for the prevision of liquid nitrogen for the freezing of AI straws in a remote location. The system is identical to the LSHTM system. It has auto on/off on dewar storage level, power fluctuation detection and protection, closed loop forced air water cooling, HMI operation, and requires only the connection of power when commissioned as it is fully enclosed in a 10-foot shipping container for easy relocation.
The AFCryo/Fabrum Solutions cryocooler technology was chosen by NASA for use on the MARS Lander project. Whilst the configuration of the system is slightly different to the proposed LSHTM system, the cryocooler technology is identical. NASA chose the system for its ability to operate autonomously, remotely, and reliably for a significant timeframe – an obvious prerequisite for a system being sent to Mars. The current unit being used by NASA is one of several that AFCryo/Fabrum Solutions will be supply NASA for this project.
A US integrator chose the AFCryo/Fabrum Solutions PTC1000 cryocooler for a high purity medical oxygen supply system on a Navy Aircraft installation. Key deliverables of this system were ease of integration of operation and control into the larger unit, an ability to integrate into the onboard ship control systems, operability in turbulent conditions, and high reliability. This unit has now become the standard system for this defense group.
Robinson Research, a crown funded research institute residing in Victoria University requires reliable onsite liquid nitrogen production for the testing of superconducting Roebel cable and magnet performance. On a weekly consumption of 500 litres of LN2 the AFCryo Cryo Cube PTC330 was the perfect match. Delivered fully commissioned and requiring only a power connection the unit was producing liquid nitrogen within minutes of delivery.
With growing regulations around delivery and handling of cryogens the ability to have on-site production of liquid nitrogen automatically operated and supplied to NMR magnets was a perfect solution to mitigate health and safety concerns. The convenience and simplicity of the operation also allows the NMR technicians to focus on the important elements of their work, not ordering, receiving and moving bulk liquid nitrogen dewars around the campus.
Already owning a nitrogen generator for purging of electrical systems, Nautech required the addition of liquid nitrogen to operate their HASS system for rapid life testing of electrical components. The constant unreliability of bulk nitrogen supply was a costly distraction from core business. The simple addition of a PTC330 cryocooler connected between the nitrogen generator and the HASS chamber was a simple system upgrade that removed any issues of liquid supply.
AFCryo, a New Zealand based OEM, formed in 2017 as a joint venture between Absolut System (based in France) and Fabrum Solutions (NZ). Collaboration between these two companies emerged from recognition that together they could offer world leading cryocooler technologies for a myriad of applications. One such product is the CryoCube, a game changing innovation that – to achieve its full potential -required product partnerships with internationally recognized brands (including Sullair), to achieve global reach and deliver worldwide support capabilities.
AFCryo has customers that are involved in:
For the purpose of this case study, AFCryo’s client is a
pharmaceutical ingredients manufacturer involved in:
The brief from AFCryo’s Pharma client was to provide a secure supply of pharmacopoeia compliant liquid and gas, for their operations. With the unique safety requirements of the COVID-19 environment, it was important that the solution was fully tested and approved for before shipping, so that the unit was fully operational on delivery to the client. This ‘plug and play’ type scenario when delivered on site, meant the unit need only positioning and a power supply on arrival.
The client’s needs could be perfectly met by the CryoCube, thanks in no small part to the outstanding level of service and support that comes with the product; a motivating factor in the strategic partnership of AFCryo with a globally positioned brand like Sullair.
AFCryo’s core business is in making cryocoolers, the heart of which is a patented dual diaphragm pressure wave generator, and a virtual compressor with no moving parts that delivers rugged, low maintenance and efficient cryocooling. To create an end to end, full air to liquid system, AFCryo was able to solve a number of challenges that have existed in the market, and through strong brand partnerships, developed the CryoCube. The cube is a mobile system that is effectively a custom sized shipping container, containing the cryocooler, combined with an oil free air compressor (supplied by Sullair) and a PSA nitrogen gas generator. It can be put on to any vehicle and shipped anywhere in the world, and assuming available power source, be producing product within an hour of delivery on site.
In the case of the Pharma client, the CryoCube offered guaranteed production of liquid and gas, to international pharmacopeia standards, fully factory acceptance tested and approved before it left for delivery to the client. Sullair air compressors provide a fit for purpose, quiet, energy efficient solution essential to the CyroCube’s overall function. The robustness of the CryoCube is fundamentally dependant on the specifics of its components, but also the partnerships with the OEMs involved in its production.
Nigel Bartlett of AFCryo explains, “we see Sullair as a partner not a supplier. We got them on board not just for the product specifications and installation, but for their entire support capabilities. The value we see is around how quickly we can respond in the event that there is a challenge to overcome”.
The immediate result is that the Pharma client has been able to become fully independent of reliance on an external supply of liquid. The long-term advantages of that will continue to
“From a client’s risk point of view at the operations level – all they’re interested in is having a full tank of liquid nitrogen when they need it”, explains Nigel Bartlett. “In partnership with Sullair, we take care of the rest”. The CryoCube partnership model means not only can the client’s liquid production be guaranteed and on hand at all times, the remote monitoring component of the product and proactive servicing take a completely pre-emptive approach, which eliminates any margin for non-user error or interruption of supply. Jean-Philippe Leclercq from Sullair said “when things are going well it’s so easy, but when things aren’t there’s a whole chain of supply between the end user, AFCryo, and Sullair, down to the factory and all of our team – the product technicians, support people, spare parts and so on. We at Sullair are well equipped to respond quickly and accordingly.”
For an AFCryo liquefaction unit (LGU), an estimate of the cost to produce and use cryogenic liquid is determined from up to three factors.
1. Cost of electricity to operate the LGU system. AFCryo can calculate the total installed power requirement in kWh to produce a litre of liquid cryogen.
2.Amortisation of the service costs. An AFCryo system will require minimal maintenance and service periodically based on the operating hours of the unit. This cost can be estimated and then amortized across the number of liquid liters produced during this period.
3.Recovery of the capital cost. (Optional). Some customers may amortize the recovery of the capital expenditure over a fixed period and choose to apply this cost to the number of liters estimate produced during this period.
For an AFCryo solution, the liquid storage dewar is typically sized in consultation with the client to optimise the needs of the process/application and minimize the opportunity for gas boil-off using ZERO LOSS systems. What you make is what you can use, no liquid or gas wastage, saving you money from day one.
For a bulk cryogenic liquid delivery model, the real cost per usable litre is considerably more complicated. This cost per usable litre calculated from many factors:
Some bulk delivery companies charge the unit of delivery in m3 (cubic metres) of gas, which is different from liquid litres. At 20 Deg°C (293 Deg°K, 68 Deg°F), the expansion ratio of liquid nitrogen to gas is 1:694. Therefore at 20 Deg°C, a cubic metre of gas would equate to 1.4 litres of liquid.
Many bulk delivery tankers operate at 8 bar(g) storage pressure. Therefore, the delivery truck can readily discharge into customer storage tanks that work at 5 bar(g) without the necessity for cryopumps. The differential pressure and temperature make it difficult to determine the actual number of real liquid litres that are delivered and so the m3 charge is arbitrary. (Real liquid litres is the cryogenic fluid measurement at 1 atmosphere)
The higher differential between the delivery pressure and the storage or application pressure means a more substantial portion of the liquid turns to gas as it gets dispensed to the application. This wastage is a direct cost charged to the customer.
Some companies charge based on level monitoring within the bulk storage tank. The monitored level inside the tank is affected by the delivery pressure and the storage pressure in the tank: the storage tank shape and the technology used to monitor the liquid level inside. These monitoring parameters also see a charge levied for vessel boil-off loss(wastage).
Often bulk delivery companies will charge the delivery distance cost, and labour charges for the driver separately from the liquid load. For some customers, this is a measurable carbon input into their organisation.
The cost for leasing, servicing and certification of the bulk liquid tank is often charged separately from the liquid load as a monthly lease or separate fee.
There are an internal labour and accounting cost incurred by the client for the receipt, processing, and payment generation for the external cryogenic supply which needs to include in the overall price of that supply.
Many cryogenic liquid losses occur within a bulk liquid system that reduces the amount of available usable liquid from the actual amount invoiced by the supply company. These include:
1. Liquid losses through trans filling from the truck to bulk storage tank
The change in pressure from the 8 Bar(g) delivery truck to the on-site storage tank as well as cooling down of transfer hose lines and pipework creates fluid loss through evaporation. The amount of liquid loss is estimated by Air Products Inc to be typically 20% of the delivery volume. This lost product is chargeable to the client.
2.Liquid losses through bulk storage tank daily evaporative loss
Cryogenic storage tanks attempt to maintain the liquid temperature of the cryogen such as liquid nitrogen at 77 Deg°K (-196 Deg°C, -321 Deg°F) through vacuum insulated tank walls and the design and material construction of the tank.
In typical ambient temperature situations, 2.5% of the total tank volume of liquid is lost each day through static evaporation through the pressure relief valve on the tank. If the time between supplier fills is weekly (7 days), this could result in 17.5% of the tank volume of liquid lost through static evaporation. This lost product has already been invoiced to the client.
3. Tank cool down process
If the volume within the storage tank drops below 40% of its design volume, the thermal mass and the insulating properties of the container cannot keep up with the external temperature, and the tank will warm. It will increase the daily losses closer to 5% per day and will require additional liquid volume when refilled to cool the tank down again. Air Products estimate that a warm tank will take an extra 40% of the delivery volume to cool down. This additional liquid to recool product is chargeable to the client.
An independent study by UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) has determined that the actual price per real available litre due to trans fill loss, daily static evaporative loss and cool-down losses are typically more than double the delivered price. Depending on the delivery charges and ongoing tank lease charges, this can add another 50% to the cost for each used litre. Therefore, you can pay between two and three times the delivered litre cost for one available liquid litre.
The AFCryo on-site production system provides effectively zero losses. The AFCryo system is optimised to manufacture cryogenic liquid as you use it, the cost to produce a litre of cryogenic liquid is the cost of the litre you use.
What can be challenging to quantify in a financial viewpoint are the health, safety, and environmental aspects of large tanker truck movements over long distances, through city streets and lanes, in public access ways, or confined access spaces at a customer’s facility. These are additional safety concerns with a large amount of venting gas during the on-site trans filling processes.
AFCryo recently worked with a client to complete a business case comparing bulk liquid supply to on-site production at their current facility as they investigated building a new facility. The client’s proposed new facility is located more than 50 kilometres from the bulk supplier manufacturing depot, and the bulk supplier had offered a 5000L liquid tank, with telemetry based fill cycles once per week.
The application of the liquid was at atmospheric pressure in a batch process using approximately 600 liquid litres per batch on alternative days. The customer calculated that the cost of delivery mileage, delivery labour, bulk tank lease and service charges resulted in additional costs of 15% above the initial quoted per litre cost.
The position of the storage tank and movement of the delivery truck will necessitate strict health and safety protocols around staff and access to the area that limits worker space and other vehicle movements during the trans fill process.
The customer calculated the losses through their bulk supply installation as 2.5% per day of the total tank volume multiplied by seven days equalling 17.5%. They then determined the trans fill loss from the tanker truck into their storage tank at 20%, based on the level monitoring and the actual demand in the hours following the trans fill process. Monitoring the tank level, as the customer decanted into the application in measured containers from the storage tank at 5.0 bar(g) to atmospheric pressure presented another 20% in lost liquid to evaporation.
The overall losses estimated by the customer were more than 50%, effectively doubling the cost of the liquid that is in the client application.
The AFCryo proposal included an LGU1000P-N, capable of producing 600 atmospheric liquid litres per day, and a 1000 liquid litre dewar with a boil-off recovery system installed. The 1.8 kWh per liquid litre production cost was less than 50% of the total bulk delivered price based on the customer’s electricity peak tariff rate, excluding losses. Even when factoring in finance charges and the cost of capital, the client determined that on-site production was still considerably lower than the bulk delivered price.
The positive financial case was evident to the client. However, the final risk assessment demonstrated the overarching negative opportunity cost to the client of an interruption to supply that might potentially occur through delivery stoppages, production facility faults, or high peak demand limiting availability.
The AFCryo solution offered a significant reduction of ongoing costs and provided security of supply for their business.
Talk to the team at AFCryo to assist you to compare the cost of producing liquid on-site compared to bulk delivery.
SNOLAB is an underground science laboratory
specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics. Located 2 km below the surface in the Vale Creighton Mine located near Sudbury Ontario Canada, SNOLAB is an expansion of the existing facilities constructed for the Sudbury Neutrino
Observatory (SNO) solar neutrino experiment.
The cooperation between CPH2 and AFCryo, one of the leading cryogenic systems manufacturers for gas separation and hydrogen liquefaction, is a multi-national tie-up where the combined technology will offer the market a cheaper and more reliable way of generating green hydrogen from renewable sources.
AFCryo is a joint venture established in 2017 between Absolut System and Fabrum Solutions. Absolute Systems based in Grenoble, France is a specialist engineering company with advanced expertise in cryogenic engineering and Fabrum Solutions based in Christchurch, New Zealand, is a leading innovator in the design, development, and manufacture of composite cryostats and cryocoolers for cryogenic applications. CPH2 and AFCryo will work collaboratively to enhance the technology from an engineering perspective, carry out specific analyses, and work together to develop the markets throughout Europe.
Dr. Nigel Williamson, Technology Director (CPH2), said, “AFCryo will design our larger cryogenics systems which will form the ‘back-end’ of our electrolyzer technology for scales above 1MW”. Williamson continued, “There will also be some cross-licensing of technologies. When the level of business attains a certain value, they will manufacture some of our technology under licence, and vice-versa, all intending to meet demand at a highly competitive cost to the end-user”.
AFCryo has a combined experience of more than 30 years in the design and manufacturer of cryocoolers and liquefiers. They first developed their cryocooler in 2005, taking it through to full commercialization, and they continue to improve their technology for long-term cooling solutions.
Hugh Reynolds, Technical Director and co-founder, AFCryo and Fabrum Solutions added: “We are excited to see green, renewable energies moving forward, and are pleased to provide CPH2 with our cryogenic systems for gas separation and hydrogen liquefaction. Our companies are at the leading technological edge of sustainable, cost-effective green hydrogen development on demand.”
The #crafty_buggars at AFCryo are proud to announce that we have completed contract negotiations and entered into an agreement for the supply of a complex liquid nitrogen cooling and liquefaction system for the Department of Physics at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada.
The project will provide increased capability for experimental stations in the research area of Dark Matter.
Another great result for New Zealand engineering excellence, and global technology partnerships to deliver world-leading solutions.
Fabrum Solutions AFCryo is excited to announce that they have just become a licensee of the official FernMark Licence Programme. It’s a programme designed to protect and promote Kiwi products to the world, which is why it’s a great move for the cryogenic and magnetic systems. Equally, being a licensee now makes Fabrum Solutions AFCryo an ambassador for New Zealand, which is both a privilege and an exciting opportunity.
A TICK OF APPROVAL THAT BUILDS TRUST.
The FernMark Licence Programme is the Government’s official ‘country of origin’ accreditation programme. That means Fabrum Solutions AFCryo products that display the FernMark have met the New Zealand Government’s eligibility criteria, which includes being GST registered in NZ, having a substantial level of New Zealand ownership, governance and employees and have been exporting for over 12 months. This criteria also requires that licensed Fabrum Solutions AFCryo products are made, grown, or designed in New Zealand, which is why the Government is happy for them to represent New Zealand around the world.
Carrying the Government’s tick of approval gives companies a big advantage overseas. Sarah Morgan, Marketing Manager at NZ Story, says: “The Programme employs a global monitoring service, Yellow Brand Protection. The service trawls
over 800 online trading sites to check for illegitimate use of the FernMark. That protects the Programme by maintaining its credibility and integrity – and protects consumers by giving them the confidence that when they see the FernMark, it is an authentic New Zealand product.”
Asked why Fabrum Solutions AFCryo applied to become a FernMark Licensee, Christopher Boyle, Managing Director, explained, “our world-leading technology and products are designed, manufactured, and certified in New Zealand, embracing kiwi talent, and we’re extremely proud of that. We deliver solutions for research, agriculture, aerospace, and future green fuels, that breadth of talent is something to be truly proud of.”
Ultimately, the FernMark Licence Programme delivers consumer trust. Carrying the FernMark means New Zealand companies are able to authenticate their products as being from New Zealand, while consumers can trust that they are buying authentic products. And in turn, the Programme entrusts us to represent New Zealand at its best. It is a win-win situation.
Purchasing an AFCryo CryoCube was an easy decision for reproductive technology services provider Xcell Breeding Services to ensure surety of liquid nitrogen supply – for its laboratory operation and storage of all species of semen and embryos – while reducing health and safety risk and cost and improving staff efficiency
Xcell Breeding Services Limited is a premier provider of practical reproductive technology services to the New Zealand and international livestock industry. Xcell provides collection, storage and despatch of semen for Bulls, Rams, Stags and Bucks and of embryos for Cattle, Sheep, Deer and Goats, and synchronisation of artificial insemination programming. Established in 1996, Xcell’s purpose-built facility near Christchurch comprises Bull, Ram and Buck export qualified housing, a laboratory, and semen and embryo collection and storage.
In 2020 AFCryo’s CryoCube was installed at Xcell for on-site liquid nitrogen production and storage for maintaining freezer operation and field activity. The CryoCube ensures the surety of liquid nitrogen supply, critical to the operation of Xcell’s business – removing the need for an external supply, which is expensive and often unreliable. In addition, the CryoCube delivers significant health and safety, cost and efficiency benefits.
“Having liquid nitrogen produced on-site and on-demand has reduced costs and de-risked our business. As a result, we can focus on developing our premier breeding services programme, our core business.”
– Kylie McKay, Centre Manager, Xcell Breeding Services Limited
Xcell’s laboratory and semen and embryo storage operation requires liquid nitrogen as a freezing medium in liquid dewars and cryogenic freezers. If liquid nitrogen runs out, it will decimate the inventory of semen and embryos in storage as freezing levels are not maintained. Therefore, surety of supply and effective storage of liquid nitrogen is essential to maintain the operations and service capability of Xcell.
Xcell staff found managing an external supply of liquid nitrogen to the centre challenging, with demand varying during the year depending on the animal breeding programmes conducted and an often unreliable supply. It was also expensive with additional delivery and account processing charges from their liquid bulk supplier.
Additionally, liquid nitrogen is challenging to handle as it is an asphyxiant and a health and safety risk. Cold burns and equipment damage can result if not handled correctly. Bulk storage tanks and heavy portable liquid nitrogen storage dewars are inconvenient and take up working space and effort to move, pressurise, and decant.
AFCryo provided Xcell with its patented LGU1000 CryoCube – a self-contained on-site liquid nitrogen production and storage solution automated with self-reporting 24 hours a day. A vacuum jacketed delivery from the CryoCube into the laboratory provides safe and efficient freezer and dewar filling stations to meet technicians’ requirements.
AFCryo streamlined the installation of its LGU1000 CryoCube, carrying out Factory Acceptance Testing and commissioning of the containerised unit before transporting it to Xcell’s site. At the site, Xcell ensured access to a suitable three-phase power supply and active internet connection.
The initial on-site set-up took less than one hour for the CryoCube to begin producing liquid nitrogen into the onboard one thousand litres cryogenic storage dewar.
Continuous monitoring of the CryoCube is enabled via a PLC (Programmable Logic Controller) system – a ruggedised computer used for industrial automation. AFCryo monitors the operational health of the CryoCube via the internet, allowing service planning to be conducted at times to suit Xcell, eliminating operational downtime for the centre.
The CryoCube is programmed to produce liquid nitrogen when automated level monitoring detects storage within the dewar reaches a predetermined point during off-peak scheduled operating hours – to maximise the energy efficiency of the container. The result is an over 75% reduction in the operating cost of liquid nitrogen for Xcell compared to their previous delivery supply contract on a per usable litre basis. In addition, the liquid nitrogen production schedule can be optimised, based on the dewar level, to meet Xcell’s seasonal demand – further improving the unit’s efficiency and operating costs.
AFCryo also installed vacuum jacket lines and dispensing valves in the field dewar storage room and the main working laboratory that houses the cryogenic freezers for primary inventory storage. The installation increased the workspace available in the storage room and the laboratory. The work area is also safer as the new system replaced the heavy delivery dewars from the bulk supplier, which Xcell staff had to move around the site and buildings.
Laboratory technicians have reduced the transfer losses since using the installed vacuum lines and dispensing valves in the laboratory. In addition, a flexible vacuum hose clamping mechanism ensures that the freezers’ filling cycle is safe and efficient, making the laboratory technicians’ process and work simpler.
Xcell laboratory technicians report their work is safer and more efficient with liquid nitrogen available on-demand in the laboratory. Importantly, technicians can also more effectively manage and maintain the inventory in the freezers and have further developed internal processes to reduce waste and boil-off losses in their operations.
Xcell management describes the collaboration with AFCryo as a game-changer for their business. Open engagement and collaboration have solved operational issues that they did not recognise in health and safety, operational planning and process efficiency. As a result, Xcell achieved a measurable return on investment from the CryoCube, exceeding initial expectations – with a 75% reduction in operating expense associated with liquid nitrogen while reducing health and safety risk and improving efficiencies.