Cryogenics

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In physics, cryogenics is the study of the production of very low temperature (below −150 °C, −238 °F or 123 K) and the behaviour of materials at those temperatures. A person who studies elements under extremely cold temperature is called a cryogenicist. Rather than the relative temperature scales of Celsius and Fahrenheit, cryogenicists use the absolute temperature scales. These are Kelvin (SI units) or Rankine scale (English/US units).

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Definitions and distinctions

The terms cryogenics, cryobiology, or cryonics are frequently confused. Other new terms with the prefix cryo- have also been introduced.

Etymology

The word cryogenics stems from Greek and means "the production of freezing cold"; however the term is used today as a synonym for the low-temperature state. It is not well-defined at what point on the temperature scale refrigeration ends and cryogenics begins, but most scientists[1] assume it starts at or below -240 °F (about -150 °C or 123 K). The National Institute of Standards and Technology at Boulder, Colorado has chosen to consider the field of cryogenics as that involving temperatures below −180 °C (93.15 K). This is a logical dividing line, since the normal boiling points of the so-called permanent gases (such as helium, hydrogen, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, and normal air) lie below −180 °C while the Freon refrigerants, hydrogen sulfide, and other common refrigerants have boiling points above −180 °C.

Industrial application

Liquefied gases, such as liquid nitrogen and liquid helium, are used in many cryogenic applications. Liquid nitrogen is the most commonly used element in cryogenics and is legally purchasable around the world. Liquid helium is also commonly used and allows for the lowest attainable temperatures to be reached.

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