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Accurate Cryochamber For A Small Laboratory With Small Budget

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2007 Annual Conference & Exposition


Honolulu, Hawaii

Publication Date

June 24, 2007

Start Date

June 24, 2007

End Date

June 27, 2007



Conference Session

Developing New Instrumentation

Tagged Division


Page Count


Page Numbers

12.164.1 - 12.164.11



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Paper Authors

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Matthew Braley University of Idaho

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Paul Anderson University of Idaho

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Tracey Windley University of Idaho

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Kevin Buck University of Idaho

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Herbert Hess University of Idaho

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract



Development of electronic devices for cryogenic temperatures requires specialized environmental chambers. The Microelectronics Research and Communications Institute required a low-cost alternative to the readily available environmental chambers. The solution was a simple aluminum cylinder cooled by pulsing liquid nitrogen into the cylinder to control the temperature of the electronics under test. National Instruments LabVIEW, GPIB communications, and simple bench top instruments control the temperature inside the chamber. This low-cost alternative will reach and sustain any set point temperature between room temperature and -190°C with an accuracy of ±5°C.

Why Reinvent the Chamber?

For NASA missions to the outer planets in the next two decades, reduced energy consumption means reduced payload. The development of electronics that operate at extremely cold temperatures ensure that they require less energy to keep the electronics warm enough to operate reliably. This technique reduces requirements for weight and volume of both the on-board power source and the insulation that encloses the experiments. It also helps the designers by placing the electronics closer to the sensors. In developing such low-temperature electronics, the University of Idaho’s Microelectronics and Communications Institute (MRCI) recognized a need for a low-cost, low-temperature test chamber. Such chambers can be quite costly, even for a temperature range that permits cooling with liquid nitrogen.

The MRCI has not previously performed cryogenic testing for developing electronics. Cryogenic testing requires special procedures and equipment, as liquid nitrogen is hazardous and requires special handling precautions. The industry standard for cryogenic testing uses large and costly environmental chambers to perform electronics testing. The cost to implement a full environmental chamber can be in excess of $40,000 for a new liquid nitrogen cooled unit. In addition to the purchase cost of the unit, liquid nitrogen must be stored and transferred with special vacuum-insulated bottles and lines. The MRCI required a cheaper alternative to the commercial environmental chambers currently available.


For environmental testing at cryogenic temperatures, the MRCI needs an environmental testing chamber equivalent to liquid nitrogen chambers that are available from commercial vendors. Any temperature between room temperature and -180°C is possible in many of the commercial liquid nitrogen cooled chambers on the market. The accuracy of the temperature inside the chamber must be within ±5°C of the set point temperature. The MRCI cold temperature chamber must also be flexible to change with the MRCI for their future needs, and it must do so at a very low cost. The requirements for the MRCI cold temperature environmental chamber

Braley, M., & Anderson, P., & Windley, T., & Buck, K., & Hess, H. (2007, June), Accurate Cryochamber For A Small Laboratory With Small Budget Paper presented at 2007 Annual Conference & Exposition, Honolulu, Hawaii. 10.18260/1-2--2099

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