Novel cryostat device and test method developed to advance UK capability for hydrogen

The UK’s National Composites Centre (NCC) has developed a novel cryostat and test method that allows the screening of composite material performance at cryogenic temperatures in an ultra-fast and cost-effective way.

The device and accompanying test method provides a solution for screening a wide selection of materials, highlighting those most suitable for detailed material testing using conventional methods. To help industry achieve ambitions for hydrogen powered aircraft requires advances in cryogenic technology, and substantial material data at low temperatures.

To enhance collaboration and UK industry advancement, the NCC will offer access to the hardware in 2024, as part of its Hydrogen programme, reducing the time, cost and complexity of cryogenic testing.

A key feature is the cryostat’s optical access allowing material specimens to be viewed during the test process. An enabling element of the test, it looks at the cracks that are developing in the composite material, focusing on the known composite challenge of ‘microcracking’. The test has a cycle time of approximately 30 minutes to cool and test allowing a high throughput of test specimens. This is achieved by using cryogenically cooled nitrogen gas, utilising a design with a low thermal mass and volume.

NCC is working with the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) to validate the cryostat design and quantify data repeatability, to ensure it meets industry standards.

Matt Kay, principal engineer at the National Composites Centre, said: “The cryostat concept will be transformational by quickly and cost effectively screening materials that are candidates for conventional cryogenic testing. It will reduce barriers to entry and increase the rate of cryogenic materials testing, helping engineers and researchers to develop new products for the emerging liquid hydrogen industry. It forms part of the NCC’s journey in developing specialist expertise to support the UK’s transition to the hydrogen economy.”

Companies interested in joining the NCC Hydrogen programme and opportunities to collaborate on the cryostat can contact the NCC at