University of East Anglia

Women in Coolings: Include me in the International network for Women in Cooling

Although I work in cryogenics rather than refrigeration, it is all cooling, just at different temperatures! My interest in the weird world of cryogenics began while I was still at school and doing the rounds of university open days. Several I visited had decided that prospective physics students might be impressed by the properties of liquid nitrogen and they guessed correctly as I was intrigued by smashing daffodils and using a banana as a hammer…
I was then lucky enough to spend a placement year at CERN in their Cryolab working on low temperature tests on components for the Large Hadron Collider. It was great to finally find that there was actually a use for the thermodynamics lectures I had struggled to stay awake in!
I graduated into a recession and so chose the option of further study. This was a PhD at almost the only place in the country to study cryogenics – the University of Southampton’s Institute of Cryogenics. My subject was pulse tube refrigeration, in the relatively early days of research into these cryocoolers, and it has been good to see how the years of research for many people paid off and commercial coolers have now been available for some time. While I was at the Institute I ended up working on a number of other projects, including those involving refrigeration – from investigating insulation methods for the MOD at temperatures just below ambient to testing novel non-CFC hydrocarbon refrigerants.
After graduating I found a job with one of the contacts I had made while at CERN: AS Scientific Products Ltd. Here I spent a good few years as a project engineer, learning the design and manufacture of bespoke low temperature systems, ranging from superconducting magnets and space test chambers to chemical separation units. From there I moved to the STFC Rutherford Laboratory where I worked on specialist cryogenic systems for neutron beamlines. These cryogenic systems ran at temperatures as low as 0.3 K (-272.85°C) but using thermal intercepts at higher temperatures such as 80 K (-193°C) and 4.2 K (-269°C) and were cooled using liquid cryogens or mechanical cryocoolers.
Currently I am at JET, the Joint European Torus, where I look after the group which provide the cryogenics and pellets to cool and fuel plasma production in the quest for fusion. Our cryoplant provides liquid nitrogen (up to 25 tonnes on a busy day!) and helium to cool the JET cryopumps to near liquid helium temperatures (4.2 K). The fuelling pellets are small capsules of frozen hydrogen and deuterium which are made by cooling the hydrogen isotopes to below 14 K (-259°C). These pellets are fired into the midst of the torus to sustain and control the plasma.