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Celebrating 50 years of dilution refrigeration

50 years of dilution refrigeration and its impact on technology and innovation

Mid 1960s: The first 3He-4He dilution refrigerator is built at University of Manchester by Henry Hall and the first commercial dilution refrigerator is developed in collaboration with Heinz London at Oxford Instruments factory in Osney Mead, Oxford, UK.  
1970s: Low temperature measurement is developed with the cooling technology as large scale custom projects.
 High cooling power systems; the first top loading into mixture (TLM) dilution refigerator is developed.
 Ultra low temperature technology becomes a standard product, with compact dilution refrigerators, automatic gas handling, advanced sorption technology (AST), and the Kelvinox® range of compact dilution refrigerators from Oxford Instruments.
2000s: The combination of Cryofree® technology and the intense interest in quantum computing (QC) and quantum information processing (QIP) bring a new level of multi-system laboratories, and the first commercial Cryofree dilution refrigerator TritonTM is introduced.

 Nuclear demagnetisation experiments in collaboration with Royal Holloway, University of London achieve < 1 mK for 30 hours on a Triton system. Continued development leads to the TritonXL dilution refrigerator with yet greater sample space, high field magnet integration, and high cooling power. Quantum technologies extend the research scope beyond QC and QIP.
From early development to the present day, Oxford Instruments has delivered over 700 dilution refrigerators to universities and leading institutes worldwide.

And the journey continues...

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Download a free technology guide

In this guide, the dilution refrigeration principles are outlined by Oxford Instruments' ULT specialists, making it simple, readable and informative. The guide covers the following topics:

• Brief history
 3He-4He mixtures
• 'Wet and 'dry' dilution refrigerators
• The dilution unit
• The dry dilution refrigerator assembly
• Recognitions and awards

Find out more about our dilution refrigerators

Applications and discoveries

While dilution refrigerators have been used for a large number of significant scientific advancements in areas such as graphene, topological insulators, quantum dots and superconducting circuits, two major discoveries should be highlighted:

The discovery of superfluid 3He in 1971 by Lee, Osheroff and Richardson, using an early Oxford Instruments dilution refrigerator equipped with a pomeranchuk cooling stage, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1996. This laid the groundwork for the study of quantum materials that display macroscopic quantum effects.

The discovery of the fractional quantum Hall effect in 1981 by Daniel Tsui, Horst Störmer and Robert Laughlin, using an Oxford Instruments top loading into mixture (KelvinoxTLM) dilution refrigerator, was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1998, leading to a breakthrough in our understanding of quantum physics and to the development of new theoretical concepts of significance in many branches of modern physics.

Recognitions and awards

In 1967, Oxford Instruments won its first Queen's Award for Technical Innovation, for developing 10 Tesla superconducting magnets and the dilution refrigerator.

In 2010, our Cryofree® dilution refrigerator, Triton won the Queen's Award for Enterprise and Innovation.