Pulse tubes

A variety of applications for space

Pulse tube technology has a variety of applications for space: from Earth observation to meteorology, etc. As their mechanism has no cold moving parts, the pulse tubes are extremely reliable, with an extended useful life, without generating vibrations, and at a reduced cost.

These coolers have a temperature range of between 10 and 200 K, operating with a closed helium cycle, with series of compressions and expansions that produce cold which is stored between each expansion cycle in a porous material called a “regenerator”. The system comprises a balanced pressure oscillator and a cold finger with a coaxial pulse tube.

36 000 km altitude of the satellites

100 milliNewtons of vibrations produced

10 to 200 K at the cold end

over 20 years' useful life without maintenance

Performance of pulse tubes

  • MPTC Miniature Pulse Tube Cooler ǀ Mass 3.8kg / Cooling power: 2 W at 80 K; 4,5 W at 120K / Electric power: 50 W
  • LPTC Large Pulse Tube Cooler ǀ Mass 7.3kg / Cooling power: 3 W at 50K; 5.5 W at 70K / Electric power: 160 W
  • HiPTC Heat Intercepted Pulse Tube Cooler ǀ Mass 18kg / Cooling power: 400 mW at 15K; 3.5 W at 90K /  Electric power: 300 W


A few key benefits

  • Easy to integrate ǀ The reduced vibration levels and the robustness of the cold finger make it easier to integrate the system close to the application that requires cooling
  • Increased reliability and useful life ǀ This equipment has a completely passive cold finger and the compressor pistons are held on flexible bearings that eliminate all contact with the casings
  • Reduced cost ǀ The simplicity of the cold finger, the lack of moving parts, and the lack of hydraulic actuators, reduce the complexity of the cooler drive electronics, thereby reducing the system impact and therefore costs.
  • Vibration levels that are compatible with space applications ǀ The remarkably low levels of vibration (a few mN) mean that these machines are compatible with the very stringent specifications for photo detectors.
  • Compliant with the highest standards ǀ ECSS ESA space standards


Solid references

  • Air Liquide was selected by Thales Aliena Space to supply integrated solutions to cool Focal Plane Arrays around 50-60K in the frame of the Meteosat Third Generation (MTG) program.
  • The Air Liquide LPTC cooler was also selected by Thales Aliena Space for one of its program.
  • Airbus Defense and Space and the CNES selected the pulse tube cryocooler of Air Liquide advanced Technologies to handle the cooling of the new generation Infrared Atmospheric Sounding Interferometer (IASI-NG).

The compressor, component of the Air Liquide cryo cooling solution, is supplied by Thales Cryogenics B.V. The LPTC is developed by Air Liquide under CEA Licence. ​​​​​​​

Active cryo cooling for space application

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