The word cryogenics stems from Greek and means "the production of freezing cold"; however the term is used today as a synonym for the low-temperature state. It is not well-defined at what point on the temperature scale refrigeration ends and cryogenics begins, but most scientists[1] assume it starts at or below -240 F (about -150 C or 123 K). The National Institute of Standards and Technology at Boulder, Colorado has chosen to consider the field of cryogenics as that involving temperatures below −180 C (93.15 K). This is a logical dividing line, since the normal boiling points of the so-called permanent gases (such as helium, hydrogen, neon, nitrogen, oxygen, and normal air) lie below −180 C while the Freon refrigerants, hydrogen sulfide, and other common refrigerants have boiling points above −180 C.

The field of cryogenics advanced during World War II when scientists found that metals frozen to low temperatures showed more resistance to wear. Based on this theory of cryogenic hardening, the commercial cryogenic processing industry was founded in 1966 by Ed Busch. With a background in the heat treating industry, Busch founded a company in Detroit called CryoTech in 1966. Though CryoTech later merged with 300 Below to create the largest and oldest commercial cryogenics company in the world, they originally experimented with the possibility of increasing the life of metal tools to anywhere between 200%-400% of the original life expectancy using cryogenic tempering instead of heat treating. This evolved in the late 1990s into the treatment of other parts (that did more than just increase the life of a product) such as amplifier valves (improved sound quality), baseball bats (greater sweet spot), golf clubs (greater sweet spot), racing engines (greater performance under stress), firearms (less warping after continuous shooting), knives, razor blades, brake rotors and even pantyhose. The theory was based on how heat-treating metal works (the temperatures are lowered to room temperature from a high degree causing certain strength increases in the molecular structure to occur) and supposed that continuing the descent would allow for further strength increases.

Posted 2010-12-14 and updated on Dec 14, 2010 2:35pm by crisd

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