9 Facts About Cryogenic Technology that are Worth Knowing

#1. What is Cryogenics

Cryogenics is the study of very low temperatures, how low temperature is achieved and how matter behaves at low temperatures. The term Cryogenics is derived from the Greek word kρύο (cryo) – “cold” + genic meaning to generate.

#2. Branches of  Cryogenics

Cryobiology: The study of the effect of low temperatures on organisms (most often for the purpose of achieving cryopreservation).

Cryoconservation: Conservation of animal genetic material at low temperatures with the aim of preserving a breed.

Cryosurgery: Surgical procedures at very low temperatures ( minus 196 degree Celsius)  designed to destroy malignant tissue such as cancer cells.

Cryoelectronics: The field of research and surrounding superconductivity at low  temperatures.

Cryotronics: The practical application of Cryoelectronics.

Cryonics: Cryopreserving humans and animals with the aim of reviving them in the future.

#3. How was Cryogenics Developed?

Through efforts by 19 century scientist to liquify gases that were through to be permanent –  oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon monoxide, methane and nitric oxide-  at  exceedingly low temperatures.

#4. What Temperatures are Considered Cryogenic?

From approximately  – 100 degree Celsius(-148 degree fahrenheit)  down to absolute zero (the coldest point a material can reach) which is zero kelvin, equivalent to -273 degree Celsius  -459 Degree  Fahrenheit.

#5. How significant is Temperature?

Very significant. It is the measure of energy in a material whether solid, liquid, or gas. Energy is the motion among molecules that make up a material. The faster the motion, the higher the temperature.

#6. How Cryogenic Temperatures are Achieved?

Heat Conduction – When in contact, heat flows from matter at high temperatures to matter at lower temperature.

Evaporative Cooling – Similar to perspiration in human in which body becomes a gas and evaporate from skin, cool in the body

Joule-Thomson effect – When a real gas is passed through an insulated porous plug or valve, there is a rapid temperature drop.

Adiabatic Demagnetization – Uses special paramagnetic salts which produce some of the coldest temperatures ever observed.

#7. How Significant is Temperature?

Mechanical and electrical properties of many materials are fundamentally altered when subjected to cryogenic temperatures.  Rubber, some metals,  and most plastics become brittle,  allowing for easier recycling.  metals and ceramics become superconductive, losing all resistance to electrical flow.

#8. Uses & Applications of Cryogenic Technology

Cryogenic transfer  pumps/cryogenic  valves: used to transfer liquefied natural gas from Carriers to storage tanks.

Rocket fuel/ Propellant:  cryogenic hydrogen/ oxygen propelled the space shuttle into Orbit.

Space Research:  relies upon cryogenic fluids.

Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy (NMR): Strong magnetic fields are generated by supercooling electromagnets.

Electric power transmission in big cities: nitrogen and Helium are used to cool special alloy –   containing cables to increase power transmission.

Food Processing: Cryogenics are used in large scale food processing.

Medical: Blood/ tissue preservation; treatment of skin disease.

#9. Human Cryopreservation

The first human was cryopreserved in 1967. As of 2014,  about 250 people were cryopreserved in the US,  with 1500 more slated for the procedure after their legal death. there are only four cryonics facilities worldwide- three in the US and one in Russia.

How it is done?

The person must be pronounced legally dead; the heart must have stopped beating.

However, the person should not be totally dead. Some brain function should remain.

Cryonics preserves the remaining cell function so that the person can, theoretically,  be revived in the future.

The cost: $200, 000  for whole body preservation. A cheaper option –  neurosuspension- is available for $50, 000, and preserves only the brain with the hope that future technology will be able to clone or regenerate the rest of the body.

Has anyone been successfully revived?

Not yet,  because a technology to revive a human from cryopreservation still does not exist. Optimism hinges on anticipated medical advances that may someday allow cryopreserved people to be revived.