Air Products to Provide Nitrogen Liquefaction Refrigeration System to one of the World’s Largest Physics Experiment Studying the Origins of the Universe

Lehigh Valley, PA (July 19, 2023) – Not with a big bang but with the quiet stroke of a pen, representatives of Air Products and Fermi Research Alliance LLC (FRA), which manages and operates the U.S. DOE Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory known as Fermilab, signed a contract for Air Products to supply a custom nitrogen liquefier equipment package to support research of the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, DUNE.

The DUNE experiment will take place more than a mile below the surface of the South Dakota Black Hills located at the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) and at Fermilab’s research campus in Illinois. U.S. based Fermilab is leading the participation of 35 countries in the DUNE project.

“Air Products is excited to bring our experience and advanced technology in the area of industrial gases to help DUNE with this important work,” said Dr. Samir J. Serhan, Air Products’ Chief Operating Officer.  “Air Products’ engineers have developed an innovative solution incorporating several parts of our business to create a nitrogen refrigeration system that will be transported deep underground and modularly assembled in the underground caverns of the SURF site.”

Here is how Air Products is contributing to the DUNE experiment.

The vast caverns of DUNE will house large cryostats filled with liquid argon, each the size of a five-story building. These large argon cryostats will enable the detection of neutrinos coming from a proton accelerator beam generated about 800 miles away in Batavia, Illinois. The nitrogen liquefaction system, designed by Air Products, will be used to continually cool and re-condense the argon that boils off from the neutrino detection system.

The customized nitrogen refrigeration equipment package includes technology from several Air Products business units including Rotoflow® turbomachinery equipment, PRISM® Membrane Solutions for nitrogen generation, and Air Products’ Cold Box technology.

DUNE represents the largest international physics experiment in the study of neutrinos. Physicists believe the study of these tiny, subatomic particles at DUNE could help the world understand the fundamentals of matter and the origins of the universe. The work includes over 1,000 scientists from more than 35 counties.

“Each of the large DUNE cryostats will contain 17,500 metric tons of ultrapure liquid argon to look for particle tracks,” said David Montanari, a Fermilab engineer who works on the project. “A nitrogen refrigeration system is needed to initially fill the cryostats with liquid argon (argon is transported in gas phase underground) and keep the argon as a liquid by recondensing the boiloff. For DUNE to be successful, we need to maintain impurity concentrations in the argon at less than a trillionth of a percent. The nitrogen refrigeration system is an essential step to achieving that.”

More about the DUNE project

DUNE will be pursuing three major science goals through its research: to find out whether neutrinos could be the reason the universe is made of matter; to look for subatomic phenomena that could help realize Einstein’s dream of the unification of forces; and to watch for neutrinos emerging from an exploding star, perhaps witnessing the birth of a neutron star or a black hole.

Neutrinos are everywhere, but they rarely interact with matter. Each second, trillions of these particles pass through our bodies and leave without a trace. By studying these ghost-like particles, physicists hope to answer questions, such as: Why is the universe made of matter?  What is the relationship between the four forces of nature? How are black holes formed in the aftermath of an exploding star?

The DOE’s Fermilab is the host laboratory for DUNE and in partnership with funding agencies contributes expertise and components, which provide economic benefits to each of the participating partner institutions and countries. DUNE consists of massive neutrino detectors, at Fermilab in Illinois and SURF in South Dakota. The Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility will produce the world’s most intense neutrino beam and provide the infrastructure for the detectors. The PIP-II particle accelerator at Fermilab will power the neutrino beam.

About Air Products

Air Products (NYSE:APD) is a world-leading industrial gases company in operation for over 80 years focused on serving energy, environmental, and emerging markets. The Company has two growth pillars driven by sustainability. Air Products’ base business provides essential industrial gases, related equipment and applications expertise to customers in dozens of industries, including refining, chemicals, metals, electronics, manufacturing, and food. The Company also develops, engineers, builds, owns and operates some of the world’s largest industrial gas and carbon-capture projects, supplying world-scale clean hydrogen for global transportation, industrial markets, and the broader energy transition. Additionally, Air Products is the world leader in the supply of liquefied natural gas process technology and equipment, and globally ­provides turbomachinery, membrane systems and cryogenic containers.

The Company had fiscal 2022 sales of $12.7 billion from operations in over 50 countries and has a current market capitalization of about $65 billion. More than 21,000 passionate, talented and committed employees from diverse backgrounds are driven by Air Products’ higher purpose to create innovative solutions that benefit the environment, enhance sustainability and reimagine what’s possible to address the challenges facing customers, communities, and the world. For more information, visit or follow us on LinkedInTwitterFacebook or Instagram.

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