Helium Compressor Case Study


Our Customer

Our customer is a market-leading manufacturer of highly specialised scientific instruments (Cryocoolers), and a supplier to the MeerKAT / SKA project. The SKA (Square Kilometre Array) is an international effort to build the world’s largest radio telescope, with a square kilometre (one million square metres) of collecting area. The MeerKAT radio telescope is a precursor to the SKA telescope and will eventually be integrated into the mid-frequency component of the project.

The Challenge

Cryocoolers are used in high power radio telescopes to help reduce noise while increasing the device’s sensitivity to weak signals. This is achieved by ‘cryogenically’ cooling the front end detectors located at the antenna focus to temperatures as low as -250°C.

Our brief was to help design a rugged equipment cabinet to house a new helium compressor unit, provide a suitable cooling method for the helium and oil circuits, whilst protecting it from the harsh outside environment.

The new system needed to be suitable for use in a desert application which experiences extended temperature ranges and high levels of particulate contamination. Coupled with long minimum service intervals, strict Radio Frequency Interference (RFI) requirements and physical size constraints this was definitely going to be an interesting project.

The Approach

A highly collaborative design approach was adopted between us and our customer to realise the final product configuration.

Boston Design having many years of experience in the design and manufacture of sensitive electronic systems for use in hostile environments, and our customer having over 25 years experience of developing Cryostream Coolers. A collaborative approach enabled us to quickly utilise existing design and construction methods from previous projects, and adapt them for use in this particular application.

The technical solution and speed in which we were able to present our concept to the wider project team was a key differentiator for our customer.

The Solution

Fabricated steel construction cabinet. IP64 rated. K450-SKA helium compressor. Dual recirculating heat exchanger unit (3Kw). Forced air cooling. Maximum temperature range -15 to +50 degrees Celsius. Dimensions 1.30m x 0.50m x 0.50m. Weight 120Kg. Minimum service interval 15,000 hrs. Operating deployed lifetime 87,600hrs (10 years).

The Results

The prototype units have successfully undergone many hours of in-house testing by our customer and are now close to being finally deployed in the Karoo desert for field trials. A further 67 units will be required for the longer term project.

Did You Know?

The SKA will be so sensitive that it will be able to detect a radar signal on a planet tens of light years away. To put this into perspective 10 light years = 94,607,304,725,808 Kilometres (or 58,786,253,731,836 Miles).

The SKA exceeds the image resolution quality of the Hubble Space Telescope by a factor of 50!

The amount of data produced by the entire internet in one year is roughly 200 Petabytes (or 200M Gigabytes). SKA will produce this amount of data in just 2 to 3 weeks. Its high-speed super computer will be capable of processing 160,000 Gigabytes of data per second. To put this into perspective streaming HD video over the internet uses roughly 3 Gigabytes of data per hour.

SKA is the largest science facility ever built by mankind!

Want To Know More?

For a fascinating insight to the SKA project please click here.

About Us

BOSTON DESIGN CONSULTANTS provide design engineering and manufacturing services across many market sectors.
Our multi-disciplined team have many combined years of experience serving the Aerospace / Military / Transportation / Industrial / Marine / Scientific market sectors. We have numerous products which are fully qualified and in current active service.

We provide mechanical, electronic, system, PSU, PCBA and Backplane design services using our suite of leading-edge design tools. However, our capabilities don’t just end there! We work with EN9100 / ISO13485 accredited manufacturing partners who can provide full procurement, PCBA build, box build, system integration, cabling and test services if needed.
From concept to delivery, BDC continues to deliver cost-effective and highly innovative system solutions that meet or exceed our customer’s requirements, regardless of operating environment or technical complexity.