The feasibility of a compact, reliable, low-cost, and efficient cryocooler capable of delivering 1 Watt of cooling at 10K using less than 1kW of input power has been demonstrated analytically. The technology promises to provide highly efficient refrigeration for temperatures as low as 4K, and to be particularly beneficial for temperatures below 30K. The technical approach is to apply a high-efficiency thermodynamic cycle to a compact and reliable small-scale system by implementing a modern microprocessor into a mechanically innovative machine. The innovations of the design include “floating” piston expanders and electro-magnetic “smart” valves, which eliminate the need for mechanical linkages and reduce the input power, size, and weight of the cryocooler in an affordable modular design. It is predicted that a three-stage cryocooler operating with 15-bar helium could produce 2W of cooling at 10K while requiring less than 1kW of compressor power. A laboratory prototype is currently under development, with testing to be completed in the Fall of 2003.

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