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GEA compressors drive FAIR cooling

GERMANY: GEA Grasso screw compressors for the compression of helium gas will play a crucial role in the Facility for Antiproton and Ion Research (FAIR) particle accelerator facility.

FAIR, one of the largest research projects worldwide, is being built in Darmstadt, Germany, as an expansion of the GSI Helmholtz Centre for Heavy Ion Research. At FAIR, matter that usually only exists in the depth of space will be produced in a lab for research. It is planned that scientists from all over the world will be able to gain new insights into the structure of matter and the evolution of the universe from the big bang to the present.

The order placed with GEA by the project partner Enerproject SA includes compressors type XH, GEA’s largest compressors, XE compressors and XC compressors, all belonging to GEA’s LT series. The compressors will be used to liquefy helium and to cool the superconducting magnets. The entire refrigeration system will have a cooling capacity of 15kW at about -269°C.

The GEA team in the GSI/FAIR project, together with partners such as Enerproject SA and Linde Kryotechnik AG, both from Switzerland, tackled major challenges in the project. 

Helium, the “coldest” element on earth, is used to cool the magnets as traditional refrigerants are incapable of reaching the required temperature. The normal boiling point of helium is 4.2K, which corresponds to about -269 °C. The entire plant contains 12.5 tons of helium. 

“Helium is an expensive and extremely rare chemical element that cannot be produced artificially. Therefore, the loss and contamination of helium must be minimised in order to reduce costs for the customer,” said Gerald Geißler project manager and key account for gas compressors (DACH). “For this reason, the installation of a second O-ring seal for the low-pressure compressors, as well as a leak test with helium were necessary.”

Leak testing was carried out by the ILK Institut für Luft- und Kältetechnik Dresden.

GEA sees the FAIR project as an important reference for further future projects in the application of helium in low temperature refrigeration.

FAIR project

The FAIR particle accelerator facility in Darmstadt is one of the world’s largest construction projects for cutting-edge international research. The project includes construction of a 1,100m long accelerator tunnel 17m underground and other operational and utility buildings, built on an area of around 150,000m2.

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