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Large capacity ULT chiller using neon refrigerant

SOUTH KOREA: Researchers claim to have developed a large capacity ultra-low temperature industrial chiller which, in tests, has achieved a 10kW cooling performance at -100℃.

The research team from the Department of Energy Storage Systems of the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials (KIMM) has developed the Turbo-Brayton cooling system using neon as the refrigerant. Non-toxic and chemically inert, neon is not known to pose any threat to the environment.

The Turbo-Brayton cooling technology is a cooling system that uses a high-speed turbine mounted on a single shaft and rotating at speeds of tens to hundreds of thousands of rpm. In this instance, the KIMM research team has developed its own centrifugal compressor and turbo expander for the chiller.

This technology has been used in limited areas such as superconducting cable cooling, cryogen sub-cooling and LNG re-liquefaction. However, the demand for large-capacity ULT chillers with a cooling temperature of -100 ℃ or lower and a cooling capacity of 10kW or larger has recently been increasing in the semiconductor industry. 

The newly developed cooling system uses neon as the refrigerant. Non-toxic and chemically inert, neon is not known to pose any threat to the environment. 

Using Turbo-Brayton cooling technology, it is possible to control temperature and capacity over a wide range. The latest performance tests are said to have confirmed that the capacity can be freely controlled within the range of 5.5 to 11kW. 

“Within three years, we will further develop the system so that it can evolve into a form suitable for industrial chillers, and will conduct research and development so that the system can be used in the semiconductor industry and also in other industries,” said principal researcher Junseok Ko.

He also revealed that while neon was currently being employed as the refrigerant, the next step would be to move to nitrogen.

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