2G Enterprises
2G Enterprises SRM Systems Installed Degausser Sample Handler IRM/ARM ManualMaintenance Contact Information


            The liquid helium reservoir of the SRM system is in danger of a high pressure rupture whenever there is a loss of vacuum in the superinsulation region if the reservoir is at helium temperatures. If the fill, vent and safety lines have become plugged at the same time the danger then becomes a certainty. The purpose of the safety line is to provide a venting path that is never opened during normal system operation and therefore should never become plugged. This points out the critical purpose of the safety line and the requirement that it must not be disturbed without specific instructions from 2G. We have never experienced a rupture of one of our 2G systems so it is difficult to predict the extent of the damage that would occur, but it is clear that if a rupture seems likely then the region within at least 100 feet of the SRM must be evacuated to protect life and property.

            Figures 1-1 through 1-4 give a cross section layout of the 760-R SRM and show the relative locations of the reservoir, vapor cooled shields and the superinsulation volume. The 760 and 755 systems have the same basic layout. The fill, vent and safety lines are 0.25 inch OD stainless steel tubes that pass through the superinsulation region from the helium reservoir to the outside of the SRM. The long length (up to 180 inches for the vent line and 80 inches for the fill and safety), and the small diameter are very important in achieving the very low helium loss rates. The same length and diameter makes it very easy for a solid air plug to block the line. In the following section we will discuss the most likely ways that a hazardous condition can occur in the SRM, and the time that one might have to resolve the problem before any danger occurs.

            The time that may be required to reach rupture conditions depends on the circumstances of the system failure. In the following two paragraphs we will discuss the two most likely situations:

6-1. Catastrophic vacuum failure:

            The loss of dewar vacuum is the least likely but the most hazardous situation. If the vacuum is lost due to a major accident such as fire in the laboratory, an object falling on the SRM and rupturing the outer vacuum jacket, or failure of the sample access tube, then the pressure will build up in the reservoir to the rupture point in a few minutes so the only choice is to evacuate the area immediately.

6-2. Slow vacuum failure:

            If the vacuum loss occurs due to a leak in a vacuum seal or rupture of one of the plumbing or electrical fittings, then the pressure build up in the reservoir will be much slower and can probably be released fast enough through the vent, safety and fill ports. As soon as it is realized that a vacuum failure has occurred the operator must open the vent valve. Rapid flow of very cold helium gas will exit these three ports so great care must be used to prevent any contact with the cold gas. Most of the helium gas will be vented in about 10 minutes and after this time the volume of cold gas remaining in the reservoir should not produce enough pressure in further warming to rupture the reservoir walls. Continue to let the reservoir vent until the flow almost stops and/or the reservoir has warmed to room temperature (0.4 volts on the reservoir and shield diodes). It will take from 30 minutes to more than 24 hours for the reservoir to reach room temperature. As soon as possible contact 2G for further advice.

6-3. Plugging of the plumbing lines without vacuum failure:

            The liquid helium reservoir is connected to the top flange of the SRM with three 1/4 inch OD stainless steel tubes that are within the superinsulation of the instrument. If the room temperature end of any of these tubes is left open to the atmosphere without a strong exit flow of helium gas, then air will be cryopumped into the line and will quickly (in a matter of a few seconds to a minute) solidify in the line somewhere between the outer and inner vapor cooled shields. This is a distance of up to 80 inches down in the lines. A solid air plug of this nature will support very high pressures, well beyond that required to rupture the helium reservoir!

If any indication is observed that the lines may be plugged PLEASE contact 2G immediately.

            We have discussed in section 4 several ways to clear a plug in the fill and vent lines The danger occurs if all three lines become plugged at the same time. This should not occur since the safety line should NEVER be opened, BUT IF FOR WHATEVER REASON ALL THREE LINES DO BECOME PLUGGED THE SYSTEM IS IN DANGER OF RUPTURING. If the cryocooler is left on and is operating properly, then the liquid helium will slowly evaporate and the reservoir pressure will rise to equilibrium with the cryocooler at about 20 Kelvin. The pressure will be about 40 psig at this point and the reservoir walls will support this pressure with no difficulty. It will take many days for the pressure to rise to even 10 psig so it should be possible, following the procedures given in section 4, to clear at least one line before a danger point is reached. Please contact 2G as soon as any evidence exists to show that the lines may be plugged.