UK engineers perform ‘mission-critical’ role in cooling world’s most powerful pulsed neutron source

British Thermal engineering specialist GRE Ltd has won a five-figure contract to develop bespoke ultra-pure water cooling solutions for the European Spallation Source (ESS) in Lund, Sweden, a multi-disciplinary research facility based on the most powerful pulsed neutron source ever seen.

Part of a project that accelerates protons to 96 per cent of the speed of light, the latest contract awarded by the ESS follows on from a £250,000 tender won last year.

GRE’s compact cooling solution is a self-contained unit that feeds four cryomodules. Using ultra-pure water technology, the system will operate with deionised water – which is typically used to cool equipment where high voltages are present as it eliminates the risk of electrical danger. GRE will provide the equipment and a programmable logic controller to operate conductivity, temperature, flow and pressure which then feeds back into the main system – allowing for remote management whilst testing takes place.

The ultra-pure water cooling solution plays a key part in ESS’ research using neutrons, which will enable the detailed study of matter, with the potential to unlock breakthroughs in energy science, environmental technology, healthcare and fundamental physics.

Managing Director of GRE Ltd Richard Booth said: “We were awarded the contract with ESS to provide a cooling solution for their linear proton accelerator. The spallation process begins in the accelerator, generating excess heat when accelerating  the protons. These protons hit the Target at almost the speed of light which causes the release of the neutrons needed for research. The neutrons are then led to different experimental stations to investigate the nature of materials.

“A cooling solution had to be developed, which meant we needed to create a bespoke, technical, ultra-pure water solution requiring precise control. Having developed this technology and succeeded in becoming an integral project partner, we’re delighted to confirm our appointment to develop two further iterations of this technology for the project.”

Richard added: “This puts UK know-how right at the forefront of one of the most exciting and important global science and technology initiatives currently under development.”

The latest project for ESS follows on from GRE’s design and development of an ultra-pure water cooling unit which was installed and brought into commission by GRE’s engineers in 2018.  This unit enables mission-critical operation of the linear accelerator, without which the neutron source cannot function. The latest cooling unit, which was designed and manufactured at GRE, is currently on its way to Sweden, with a third to follow thereafter.

Highlights of the project include:

  • 1kW cooling system for the accelerator cryomodule test stand
  • Fully stainless unit
  • All welds to be carried out by a coded welder
  • 10% of welds to be radiographed and inspected
  • Target Conductivity: 1 uS/cm
  • Capable of maintaining < 0.5 μS/cm
  • All measuring devices such as pressure, flow, temperature and conductivity fed back to the customer via EPICS
  • Mobile design for easy installation and maintenance
  • Potential to install connecting pipework
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