Dr. Chao Wang – 20 Years at Cryomech

Cryomech has grown by leaps and bounds in recent years, but 20 years ago in 1998 it was a very different place. Cryomech had just celebrated their 3rd anniversary in their new building on Falso Dr., they had plenty of extra space to work in, and only had around 15 employees. This was also the year that Dr. Chao Wang joined the Cryomech team bringing with him his experience and passion in the field of cryogenic engineering.

Dr. Wang began his years of study at the Shanghai Institute of Mechanical Engineering where he earned his B.S. in 1985. He continued his studies at Xian’An University earning his M.S. in 1990 and his Ph.D. in 1993. He began working as a post-doctoral researcher and as an associate professor at the Cryogenic Lab, CAS. After receiving an A.V. Humboldt Research Fellowship he moved to Germany to study at the University of Giessen.

It was during his time at the University that he developed his 1st two stage 4 K pulse tube cryocooler.  It was a milestone in pulse tube development and invigorated the whole cryogenic field.  During this time Peter Gifford met Dr. Wang at a conference in Germany and invited him to join the company.  When he discussed the meeting with Prof. Heiden at the University of Giessen, he recommended Dr. Wang accept the offer. After accepting the invitation Dr. Wang moved his family to Syracuse and officially joined Cryomech.

When he came to Cryomech it was still fairly small, building just GM Cryocoolers and Liquid Nitrogen Plants. Dr. Wang remembers there being so much empty space inside the new building that they set up a basketball hoop. This way they could play even when the weather was bad. Production levels were small, but everyone was determined to make the best product they possibly could.

Chao remembers the development of the PT405 (the first commercialized two stage pulse tube) as being quite a challenge. As the first test results rolled in everyone was very excited at how well this new idea was working. Despite a mishap with a leaking compressor getting water all over the floor just as former president of Janis Research Company, Bill Shield, arrived to see the pulse tube, they were able to announce the first official test results in December of 1998. The cryogenic community couldn’t wait to see this new product in person. Peter and Chao had a running model at CEC that year and the number of people who came to the booth to see it was overwhelming. Chao and Peter were immensely proud of the hard work that had been done to make this day happen. The first OEM customers were secured, and innovation would continue to be Cryomech’s number one goal.  Continued innovation at Cryomech has produced product lines of 4 K and 10 K pulse tube cryocoolers.

Chao remembers one phone call that helped inspire a whole new product line for Cryomech. Amundsen-Scott science research station at the South Pole was running out of liquid helium for their laboratory due to boil off. If they ran out during their winter season all research would have to stop for months until the next supply plane could be flown in. Dr. Chao and the Cryomech team went to work on a solution. They developed a 4K reliquification unit for the 4000L liquid helium dewar at the station; recondensing the boil off and keeping it from escaping as gas. This new technology meant that the station could get through a whole arctic winter without the worry of running out of helium.  From this, the first laboratory scale reliquefiers were born! This created a whole new product line of liquid helium solutions for Cryomech. Dr. Wang recalls everyone being extremely proud of this project.

He has won many awards for his work including the Roger W. Boom Award and the Humboldt award for outstanding young scientists which he was humbled to have received. He is driven by innovation and tackling tough design challenges. Talking to people at conferences and seeing how we might be able to help the research community excel is something he enjoys immensely. He is proud of how much Cryomech has accomplished and looks forward to seeing what they can achieve in the future.

When he is not busy designing new products, Dr. Wang enjoys playing tennis when he can and singing with his music club. He and his wife have been married for 25 years.