|Filling a Dewar with liquid helium|
While the research of low-temperature superconductors was winding down at NIST, the new building was going up and our helium recovery system was going in. When the Gebbie laboratory opened in April 2012, we had the new capability of recapturing the helium gas that was exhausted from our experiments and reprocessing it into liquid to use again in other experiments. That's what brings me to my present station at one of the finest science institutions of our nation. I'm the guy running NIST-Boulder's helium recovery and liquefaction facility, herding and wrangling helium atoms, keeping them safe and happy here with us on Earth. My weekly tasks include, but are not limited to:
- Taking roll call of where all the helium is. Which atoms are in gas form and which ones are in liquid form? When totaled, it is equivalent to ~3000 liquid liters of helium.
- Determining and keeping a pulse the scientists' needs to keep their important research steaming ahead.
- Filling the containers (called Dewars) with the cold liquid and delivering to their labs.
- Keeping some of the research magnets in my area filled with the magic cold juice.
- Running the helium liquefier to convert all the recovered gas back into liquid.
- Hunting down escape routes for the tricky little helium atoms with a handheld leak detector.
- and of course, doing all of the above while keeping safety at the forefront!
So there you have it, the answer to your burning question of "what the fuck do you do there?" What about you? What's your job?