There are primarily five types of common cryocoolers, each with different operating principles, but they all rely on compression and expansion of gas to bring about temperature changes. - Cryocoolers are used extensively in defense applications, majorly for the cooling of infrared focal planes.
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Quite specifically, cryocoolers are typically used to cool intrinsic semiconductor type focal planes for mid-wave infrared (nominally 3-5-micron wavelength) and longwave infrared (nominally 9-12 micron) sensors.
- A significant number of improvements to cryocoolers have occurred in the past two decades, which, in turn, have allowed many more applications of cryogenics to flourish and find their way into the marketplace.
- Cooling of infrared and visible cameras continue to provide opportunities for small cryocoolers. While the recent years have witnessed a shift from cooled to un-cooled IR cameras, a market remains for high-performance infrared imagers cooled by small Stirling cycle cryocoolers.
- One of the significant developments in cryocooler design is the use of rare-earth materials as regenerator matrix materials. These materials exhibit large peaks in specific heat in the 4K to 20K range and result in good regenerator performance at these temperatures.
Key Market Trends
Healthcare is Expected to Hold a Significant Share
- In the healthcare sector, increasing demand for cryocoolers is attributed to its extensive utilization in proton therapy, MRI systems, cryosurgery, and liquefaction of oxygen in hospitals. Proton therapy is a kind of particle therapy that directs proton beams at cancer cells with precision. Many high-powered magnets used in proton therapy are superconducting magnets and need to be cooled to liquid helium temperatures, using cryocoolers.
- Cancer is one of the deadly diseases claiming lives across the world. For instance, as per the National Cancer Institute, in 2018, an estimated 1,735,350 new cancer cases were diagnosed in the United States and 609,640 people died from the disease. Many cancer treatment centers and hospitals are investing in, or consider investing in this life-saving technology. This, in turn, is expected to impact the market demand over the forecast period.
- The Union Finance Minister of India announced various measures to boost the healthcare sector as a part of the first full-term budget of the second term of the Government presented in the Parliament. With an objective to enhance healthcare infrastructure, the government allocated INR 690 billion (Union Budget 2020-2021) for the healthcare sector.
- Another emerging commercial use of cryocoolers is in cooling high-temperature superconducting filters for cellular telephone base stations. Presently, four companies in the United States offer such systems (Conductus, Superconducting Technologies Inc., Spectral Solutions Inc., and Illinois Superconductor). These superconducting receivers use thin-film or thick-film High-Temperature Superconducting (HTS) filters to provide very narrow band-reject filters or bandpass filters with very steep skirts. Combined with cryogenically cooled low-noise amplifiers, these receivers allow a base station to either handle more calls, hear a handset further away, improve call quality, or a combination of these.
North America is Expected to Hold the Largest Share
- North America is one among the leading regions for medical research, healthcare market innovations, and world-class care. The increasing number of cancer cases is one of the significant factors expected to impact the market studied in the region. In Canada, an estimated 206,200 new cases of cancer and 80,800 deaths from cancer occurred in 2017, as per the Canadian Cancer Society. Thus, to cure this, proton therapy is being adopted in the region. CDL Laboratories announced a USD 70 million investment to build a proton therapy cancer treatment centre in Montreal.
- Cryocoolers are also used for satellite monitoring and missile guidance in the military sector. The United States Navy’s aircraft carrier, USS Gerald R Ford has been installed with cryocooler technology.
- According to the United States Department of Energy, advances in cavity technology, materials, and cryocooler development may lower the barrier to industrial and medical applications of superconducting radiofrequency (SRF) technology. After completing more than 5,000 cavity tests in the Vertical Test Area (VTA) using liquid helium, in March 2020, a team from the SRF Institute’s R&D Department at Jefferson Lab cooled and successfully tested an SRF cavity for the first time in one of the VTA’s vertical cryostats without any liquid helium.
The cryocooler market is competitive and consists of several players. Many companies are increasing their market presence by introducing new products, expanding their operations, or entering into strategic mergers and acquisitions.
- January 2020 - NASA recently developed a 20 Watt 20 Kelvin cryocooler is a critical step in enabling zero boil-off of liquid hydrogen. Active thermal control of cryogenic propellants is made possible by integrating a cryocooler to intercept and collect heat from the cryogenic tank support structure and/or a broad area cooled shield.
- January 2019 - The SHI Cryogenics Group added a new model to its line of Gifford-McMahon (GM) Cryocoolers with the introduction of the RDE-418D4 1.8/2.0W 4K Cryocooler. The RDE-418D4 is SHI’s highest-capacity 4K Cryocooler to date, and extends the company’s existing range of 0.1W to 1.5W models. SHI’s 4K GM Cryocoolers are recognized as the most reliable and versatile systems available in the marketplace, featuring high cooling capacities, compact designs and orientation-free operation.
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