Curbell Plastics Inc. has compiled data on plastics properties at cryogenic temperatures for customers developing applications for cold-temperature environments for medical and scientific products.
The Orchard Park, N.Y., firm recently began posting a white paper on these properties on its website curbellplastics.com so design engineers can explore properties at temperatures as low as -238° F. At such low temperatures plastics could be the best choice for seals, bearings and electrical and thermal insulation.
Curbell's senior director of business development and author of the white paper, Keith Hechtel, said “emerging technologies in medicine and physics can rely on the same properties as were discovered in NASA space programs in the 1960s and 1970s.”
Polyetheretherketone, polyimide, polytetrafluoroethylene and polycarbonate are among the polymers Hechtel examined. Applications as diverse as tissue freezing, food refrigeration equipment and superconducting magnets could benefit from using such polymers, Hechtel said in a phone Interview. Curbell's main business is distributing plastic shapes, films, adhesives, sealants and prototyping materials.
Hechtel said a big challenge is overcoming disparities in thermal contraction and expansion between metal and plastic when they are used together in a component. As well, additives and fillers may not perform as well at cryogenic temperatures so their choice in a polymer could be critical.
“There is a whole new science of cryogenic applications opening up,” Hechtel said.
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