All about cryogenic fluids: Characteristics, qualities, and applications

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Cryogenic liquids

All about cryogenic fluids: Characteristics, qualities, and applications

While everything in cryogenic engineering revolves around cryogenic fluids, we have not yet gone into detail about their characteristics, qualities, and applications in our blogs.

In this blog, we therefore look at seven commonly used cryogenic fluids. We address several unique characteristics and discuss the fluids’ role as cryogenic fuel, energy carrier or refrigerant in various industries. We also look at some of our recent projects in which the seven fluids were central.

Cryogenic liquid 1: Liquid nitrogen

Liquid nitrogen by far is the most common cryogenic liquid used by our customers. This colorless, odorless, tasteless, and inert gas has a boiling point of -196 °C and is generated on a large scale in air separation plants. Because liquid nitrogen can be extracted from the ambient air, it is a relatively environmentally friendly and affordable gas.

The application of liquid nitrogen is very extensive. For instance, this cryo gas liquid is used for shrinking materials in the automotive industry, testing or inertising products in the electronics industry, cryogenically freezing a product in the food industry and preserving medicines or biological materials in the pharmaceutical and medical industry. Cryopreservation is a well-known example of this.

Demaco has a wealth of experience in developing the best cryogenic systems for liquid nitrogen. Our vacuum insulated transfer lines, quality-enhancing products, and cryogenic applications are widely used to transport and process liquid nitrogen. Our applications are amply suitable for keeping cryogenic liquids perfectly at temperature.

A large-scale nitrogen project in which Demaco took a central role is the FrieslandCampina Innovation Centre in Wageningen. FrieslandCampina uses liquid nitrogen for various tests and product developments within the facility; Demaco was selected to design the complete vacuum-insulated piping network to supply liquid nitrogen. A nice challenge for our cryogenic engineers, one in which we were able to put our expertise in the field of cryogenic nitrogen systems effectively to use.

Cryogenic Liquids
The FrieslandCampina Innovation Centre

Cryogenic liquid 2: Liquid oxygen

Liquid oxygen is a light blue and reactive liquid that we primarily find with our customers in the space industry, the medical industry, and the steel industry. Like nitrogen, oxygen is a gas that is generated in air separation plants. The boiling point of oxygen is slightly lower than that of nitrogen. Oxygen only takes on a liquid form at a temperature of -183 °C.
In the space industry, liquid oxygen is widely used as an oxidant in rocket propulsion systems. The medical industries mainly uses liquid medical oxygen because it takes up less space than gaseous oxygen. This simplifies storage and transportation.

Finally, oxygen is also used in large quantities in the steel industry, where the gas is used to remove carbon residues from hot metal. Because steel manufacturers need a constant supply of oxygen, gas suppliers often build air separation facilities on the manufacturer’s premises.
Demaco supplies cryogenic oxygen systems to various industries. For example, our vacuum-insulated transfer lines ensure that oxygen is safely transported from a storage tank to an application or from an air separation facility to a steel mill. And as with all other cryogenic liquids, optimal insulation prevents oxygen waste.

Cryogenic liquid 3: Liquid argon

Argon is a noble gas mainly used in its gaseous state but stored and transported in liquid form. Liquid argon is colorless, odorless, inert, and has a boiling point of -185.8 °C.

The application of gaseous argon is enormously diverse. For example, this gas is used to fill lamps or protect the weld pool in MIG/MAG welding. Argon also has an insulating effect and is used in double glass panes, among other things.

Demaco supplies the piping and products needed to store and transport argon safely. We design complete customized projects and use vacuum technology and auxiliary products to perfectly preserve argon’s quality and liquid form.

Cryogenic liquid 4: Liquid carbon dioxide (CO2)

Liquid carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless, and inert liquid gas with a boiling point of -78.46 °C. Especially within the food industry, carbon dioxide is widely used in both gaseous and liquid form. For example, the cryogenic liquid is used to extract olive oil, is a refrigerant for various foods, and fire extinguishing agent. In addition, carbon dioxide in the gaseous form helps remove caffeine from coffee beans and is used to carbonize beer and soft drinks.

Even though liquid carbon dioxide is a relatively warm cryogenic liquid, high-quality products and systems are still required to process the liquid gas. Liquid carbon dioxide also evaporates into gas when it warms up; so, good insulation is essential.

Demaco supplies vacuum-insulated transfer lines and additional products and services for the safe and effective transport, storage, and usage of carbon dioxide. Our customers come from various industries, and our products are perfectly engineered to keep the quality of carbon dioxide as high as possible.

Cryogenic liquid 5: Hydrogen

The sustainable fuel of the future? Hydrogen in liquid form is increasingly used for the generation of energy or as a renewable fuel. This quite expensive gas is odorless, colorless, and flammable and has its boiling point at -252.9 °C. On Earth, hydrogen does not exist in pure form. It is thus produced from water (electrolysis) or natural gas (steam-reforming).

In recent years, interest in liquid hydrogen has increased significantly. For the industries of among others transport, marine, industrial, and space, the large-scale production of liquid hydrogen can, in fact, represent a significant improvement in terms of sustainability.

Demaco provides turnkey solutions for hydrogen projects around the world. Some examples of solutions we offer our clients in the hydrogen industry are filling stations and loading docks for trucks, and vacuum-insulated loading arms for ships, vacuum-insulated transfer lines, cryostats, vacuum-insulated distribution dewars, hydrogen purifiers, and small-scale hydrogen liquefiers.

Cryogenic liquid 6: Helium

Helium is also one of the coldest cryogenic gasses. To keep helium liquid, an extreme low temperature as low as -268.9 °C is required. This makes helium projects dependent on highly sophisticated cryogenic systems and high-quality insulation.

Helium is a colorless, odorless, and inert noble gas used primarily in scientific research and the space industry. For example, liquid helium has a vital function in particle accelerators, which are made and kept superconducting using this cryogenic liquid.

A few years ago, Demaco participated in a large-scale project of CERN (European Organization for Nuclear Research). CERN developed a particle accelerator with which particles in a 26 km long underground tunnel were made to collide with each other. Superconducting magnets accelerated the particles, and helium was used to make and keep these magnets superconducting.

Demaco ensured that the liquid helium reached the underground tunnel and that the cryogenic liquid was distributed to the various magnets. The highly sophisticated project included closed helium systems and more than 3 km of multiple vacuum-insulated transfer lines.

Cryogenic Liquids
The CERN particle accelerator

Also, with the recent ASuMED project, helium played the main part. The goal of this project was to develop a new technique for a compact, lightweight, and superconducting aircraft engine. For more on the ASuMED project, please take a look at our recent blog about cryogenic engines.

Cryogenic liquid 7: LNG

LNG (Liquid Natural Gas) is a colorless and odorless liquid that is formed when natural gas is cooled to cryogenic tempratures of approximately -162 °C. This cryogenic liquid is mainly popular in the marine industry as an eco-friendly alternative to traditional fuels. Compared to heavy fuel oil, the use of LNG results in a 25% reduction in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, a 90% reduction in nitrogen oxide (NOx) emissions, and a 100% reduction in sulfur (SO2) and fine particles emission.

In addition to the marine industry, the road transport sector is also increasingly interested in LNG as a fuel. Most LNG plants are located around ports, but also inland, you can find various LNG truck refueling stations.

An example of a large-scale LNG project to which Demaco made a significant contribution was the facility where Fjordline’s ferries can refuel, in the Norwegian port of Risavika. As part of this project, Demaco supplied no less than 750 meters of vacuum-insulated LNG transfer lines with diameters between 6″ and 8″.

Cryogenic Liquids
LNG transfer lines in Risavika

The differences between cryogenic liquids

Liquid helium versus liquid nitrogen or LNG versus liquid hydrogen. Are all cryogenic liquids really that different now? Of course, they have similarities. They are all cold and can take either a gaseous or liquid form.

However, the interesting differences mean that you won’t see every liquid gas in every industry. Consider, for instance, the extremely low temperature of liquid helium, which can be used to cool superconducting magnets. Or the high energy density of hydrogen, which allows the gas to transport large amounts of energy in liquid form. Or the characteristics of LNG, which make this liquid gas a lot more sustainable than traditional fuels.

Every cryogenic liquid is unique, but most liquid gases offer great value in very different industries around the world.

Want to know more?

Do you have questions about the application of cryogenic fluids or Demaco’s services and products? Feel free to contact us or browse our website to see our products and projects for more information.

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