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A Fridge in Space

A Case Study in Thermodynamics


Lok C. Lew Yan Voon
Department of Physics
Wright State University


This case analyzes the principles of thermodynamics and the operating cycle of an adiabatic demagnetizing refrigerator (ADR), a piece of equipment NASA uses to keep x-ray detectors cold enough to work.  A synthesis of all the basic principles of thermodynamics, the case would be appropriate for students enrolled in a thermal physics course, typically taught at a sophomore level.

  • Provide students with a stimulating real-life application of thermal physics.
  • Develop critical thinking and reasoning skills.
  • Train students to synthesize facts from various portions of a course.
  • Illustrate the variety of physical parameters.
  • Illustrate the difference between textbook and real-life physics.
Keywords: Thermodynamics; heat energy; heat engine; adiabatic; isothermal; adiabatic demagnetizing refrigerator; magnetic refrigeration; magnetocaloric effect; x-ray spectrometer; cryogenics; NASA
Topical Area: N/A
Educational Level: Undergraduate lower division
Formats: PDF
Type/Method: Analysis (Issues), Interrupted
Language: English
Subject Headings: Physics   Aerospace Engineering   Engineering (General)  
Date Posted: 04/15/00
Date Modified: N/A
Copyright: Copyright held by the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science, University at Buffalo, State University of New York. Please see our usage guidelines, which outline our policy concerning permissible reproduction of this work.

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