The helium recovery facility, located in the basement of the Physics Building, uses state-of-the-art technology to recover approximately 90% of the helium used for research by the Physics & Astronomy Department. Helium is a non-renewable resource that has become increasingly expensive and difficult to acquire, but is absolutely vital to many of the cutting-edge experiments conducted in the department. The new facility houses three separate liquefiers that can each produce up to 30 L/day. Boil-off helium gas from cryostats located in laboratories on the second and basement floors is collected in a large inflatable bag, and then compressed into storage cylinders. A series of purifiers removes unwanted gases (such as nitrogen and oxygen contaminants) prior to liquefaction. Each liquefier can be separately disconnected from the recovery system and transported to the various laboratories to transfer the liquid helium into cryostats. The system was installed in partnership with Quantum Design, and can operate nearly autonomously.
This facility not only advances green technology, but will save millions of dollars in the long run and insulate the department from wild price fluctuations and uncertainty of a limited supply.