Stirling Cycle & Pulse Tube Cryocooler Performances

Lead Research Organisation: University of Oxford
Department Name: Engineering Science


This project looks to assess the performance of Stirling cycle and pulse tube cryocoolers for space applications. Cryocoolers form part of the wider field of cryogenics, where instruments and equipment are actively rendered to cryogenic temperatures. The first Stirling cycle cryocooler was developed at Oxford in the 80s and has since been greatly innovated throughout the World.

Cryocooling of space instruments permits the ever increasing sophistication of scientific payloads for exploration and astronomical research. The coolers will be optimised and tested in terms of a variety of key performance and thermal output aspects, for contribution to a very novel field and ever-evolving set of scientific spacecraft instruments.

This project falls within the EPSRC research area and is a collaborative effort with Honeywell Hymatic, UK.


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Bailey P (2019) Low Cost Flexure Spring Testing in IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering

Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
EP/N509711/1 01/10/2016 30/09/2021
1941919 Studentship EP/N509711/1 01/10/2017 30/03/2021 Hannah Rana
Description Detectors and cameras on-board spacecraft require being cooled to cryogenic temperatures. The thermal noise on the detectors is thus significantly reduced and as such, the signals the detectors receive are clearer. Combining the two established technologies of mechanical cryocooler - the Stirling cryocooler and the pulse tube cryocooler - to create a hybrid Stirling pulse tube cryocooler (SPTC) has been developed and experimented previously in the group. Within this research project, an SPTC in a coaxial configuration has been tested to investigate its performance whilst allowing better access to cold head where the detector is integrated on the cryocooler. The performance is good and the design has been published to demonstrate a more effective configuration for spaceflight SPTCs.
Exploitation Route The SPTC design can now be further investigated and developed by the space industry for future spaceflight missions.
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Energy

Description UNOOSA Annual Scientific and Technical Subcommittee
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a advisory committee
Impact Policy advised during the UNOOSA STSC in Vienna this month of February 2020 shaped regulations that cover the rolling out of space science educational programmes across school and university levels, discussed Space Traffic Management on an inter-governmental scale, setting down policy on regulating the space environment and Earth-environmental impact of space activity, and discussed the need for international cooperation on developing technology for upcoming astrophysics and exploration missions.
Description School visit (Oxford) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Regional
Primary Audience Schools
Results and Impact STEM outreach days and a primary school assembly, promoting the study of science and tech amongst children. In some outreach activities I have taken part in, the specific focus has been girls aged 11-18.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019