Low-temperature technology timeline

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The following is a timeline of low-temperature technology and cryogenic technology (refrigeration down to close to absolute zero, i.e. –273.15 °C, –459.67 °F or 0 K).[1] It also lists important milestones in thermometry, thermodynamics, statistical physics and calorimetry, that were crucial in development of low temperature systems.

Prior to the 19th century[edit]

  • c. 1700 BCZimri-Lim, ruler of Mari in Syria commanded the construction of one of the first ice houses near the Euphrates.[2]
  • c. 500 BC – The yakhchal (meaning "ice pit" in Persian) is an ancient Persian type of refrigerator. The structure was formed from a mortar resistant to heat transmission, in the shape of a dome. Snow and ice was stored beneath the ground, effectively allowing access to ice even in hot months and allowing for prolonged food preservation. Often a badgir was coupled with the yakhchal in order to slow the heat loss. Modern refrigerators are still called yakhchal in Persian.
  • c. 60 AD - Hero of Alexandria knew of the principle that certain substances, notably air, expand and contract and described a demonstration in which a closed tube partially filled with air had its end in a container of water.[3] The expansion and contraction of the air caused the position of the water/air interface to move along the tube. This was the first established principle of gas behaviour vs temperature, and principle of first thermometers later on. The idea could predate him even more (Empedocles of Agrigentum in his 460 B.C. book On Nature).
  • 1396 AD - Ice storage warehouses called "Dong-bing-go-tango" (meaning "east ice storage warehouse" in Korean) and Seo-bing-go ("west ice storage warehouse") were built in Han-Yang (currently Seoul, Korea). The buildings housed ice that was collected from the frozen Han River in January (by lunar calendar). The warehouse was well-insulated, providing the royal families with ice into the summer months.[citation needed] These warehouses were closed in 1898 AD but the buildings are still intact in Seoul.
  • 1593 – Galileo Galilei builds a first modern thermoscope. But it is possible the invention was by Santorio Santorio or independently around same time by Cornelis Drebbel. The principle of operation was known in Ancient Greece.
  • c. 1611-1613 – Francesco Sagredo or Santorio Santorio, put a numerical scale on a thermoscope.
  • 1617 – Giuseppe Biancani publishes first clear diagram of thermoscope
  • 1638 – Robert Fludd describes thermometer with a scale, using air thermometer principle with column of air and liquid water.
  • 1650 – Otto von Guericke designed and built the world's first vacuum pump and created the world's first ever vacuum known as the Magdeburg hemispheres to disprove Aristotle's long-held supposition that 'Nature abhors a vacuum'.
  • 1656 – Robert Boyle and Robert Hooke built an air pump on this design.
  • 1662 – Boyle's law (gas law relating pressure and volume) is demonstrated using a vacuum pump
  • 1665 – Boyle theorizes a minimum temperature in New Experiments and Observations touching Cold.
  • 1679 – Denis Papinsafety valve
  • 1702 – Guillaume Amontons first calculates absolute zero to be −240 °C using an air thermometer of his own invention (1702), theorizing at this point the gas would reach zero volume and zero pressure.
  • 1714 – Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the first reliable thermometer, using mercury instead of alcohol and water mixtures
  • 1724 – Daniel Gabriel Fahrenheit proposes a Fahrenheit scale, which had finer scale and greater reproducibility than competitors.
  • 1730 – René Antoine Ferchault de Réaumur invented an alcohol thermometer and temperature scale ultimately proved to be less reliable than Fahrenheit's mercury thermometer.
  • 1742 – Anders Celsius proposed a scale with zero at the boiling point and 100 degrees at the freezing point of water. It was later changed to be the other way around, on the input from Swedish academy of science.
  • 1755 - William Cullen used a pump to create a partial vacuum over a container of diethyl ether, which then boiled, absorbing heat from the surrounding air.[4]
  • 1756 – The first documented public demonstration of artificial refrigeration by William Cullen[5]
  • 1782 – Antoine Lavoisier and Pierre-Simon Laplace invent the ice-calorimeter
  • 1784 – Gaspard Monge liquefied the first pure gas with Clouet producing liquid sulfur dioxide.[6][7]
  • 1787 – Charles's law (Gas law, relating volume and temperature)
  • 1799 – Martin van Marum and Adriaan Paets van Troostwijk compressed ammonia to see if it followed Boyle's Law. They found at room temperature and 7 atm gaseous ammonia condensed to a liquid.[7]

19th century[edit]

20th century[edit]

21st century[edit]

  • 2000 - Nuclear spin temperatures below 100 pK were reported for an experiment at the Helsinki University of Technology's Low Temperature Lab in Espoo, Finland. However, this was the temperature of one particular degree of freedom – a quantum property called nuclear spin – not the overall average thermodynamic temperature for all possible degrees in freedom.[19][20]
  • 2014 - Scientists in the CUORE collaboration at the Laboratori Nazionali del Gran Sasso in Italy cooled a copper vessel with a volume of one cubic meter to 0.006 kelvins (−273.144 °C; −459.659 °F) for 15 days, setting a record for the lowest temperature in the known universe over such a large contiguous volume[21]
  • 2015 - Experimental physicists at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) successfully cooled molecules in a gas of sodium potassium to a temperature of 500 nanokelvins, and it is expected to exhibit an exotic state of matter by cooling these molecules a bit further.[22]
  • 2015 - A team of atomic physicists from Stanford University used a matter-wave lensing technique to cool a sample of rubidium atoms to an effective temperature of 50 pK along two spatial dimensions.[23]
  • 2017 - Cold Atom Laboratory (CAL), an experimental instrument launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in 2018.[24] The instrument creates extremely cold conditions in the microgravity environment of the ISS leading to the formation of Bose Einstein Condensates that are a magnitude colder than those that are created in laboratories on Earth. In this space-based laboratory, up to 20 seconds interaction times and as low as 1 picokelvin ( K) temperatures are projected to be achievable, and it could lead to exploration of unknown quantum mechanical phenomena and test some of the most fundamental laws of physics.[25][26]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Martynov, A. V. (1976). "The terminology of low-temperature technology (discussion)". Chemical and Petroleum Engineering. 12 (5): 470–472. doi:10.1007/BF01146769. S2CID 110774259.
  2. ^ Stephanie Dalley (1 January 2002). Mari and Karana: Two Old Babylonian Cities. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 91. ISBN 978-1-931956-02-4.
  3. ^ T.D. McGee (1988) Principles and Methods of Temperature Measurement ISBN 0-471-62767-4
  4. ^ Arora, Ramesh Chandra (30 March 2012). "Mechanical vapour compression refrigeration". Refrigeration and Air Conditioning. New Delhi, India: PHI Learning. p. 3. ISBN 978-81-203-3915-6.
  5. ^ William Cullen, Of the Cold Produced by Evaporating Fluids and of Some Other Means of Producing Cold, in Essays and Observations Physical and Literary Read Before a Society in Edinburgh and Published by Them, II, (Edinburgh 1756)
  6. ^ Taton, René (1952). "Quelques précisions sur le chimiste Clouet et deux de ses homonymes". Revue d'Histoire des Sciences et de Leurs Applications. 5 (4): 359–367. doi:10.3406/rhs.1952.2972. JSTOR 23905084.
  7. ^ a b Wisniak, Jaime. "Louis Paul Cailletet—The liquefaction of the permanent gases." (2003).
  8. ^ "1803 – Thomas Moore". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2008-09-06.
  9. ^ Mendelssohn, Kurt. "Quest for absolute zero: the meaning of low temperature physics." (1977).
  10. ^ 1844 – Charles Piazzi Smyth Archived 2012-02-10 at the Wayback Machine
  11. ^ 1851 John Gorrie
  12. ^ "Patent Images". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  13. ^ JT Critchell & J. Raymond (Constable & Co., London: 1912), A History of the Frozen Meat Trade.
  14. ^ "app-a1". Retrieved 15 March 2015.
  15. ^ Vacuum Science & Technology Timeline
  16. ^ Zu, H.; Dai, W.; de Waele, A.T.A.M. (2022). "Development of Dilution refrigerators – A review". Cryogenics. 121. doi:10.1016/j.cryogenics.2021.103390. ISSN 0011-2275. S2CID 244005391.
  17. ^ "New State of Matter Seen Near Absolute Zero". NIST. Archived from the original on 2010-06-01.
  18. ^ "World record in low temperatures". Archived from the original on 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2009-05-05.
  19. ^ Knuuttila, Tauno (2000). Nuclear Magnetism and Superconductivity in Rhodium. Espoo, Finland: Helsinki University of Technology. ISBN 978-951-22-5208-4. Archived from the original on 2001-04-28. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  20. ^ "Low Temperature World Record" (Press release). Low Temperature Laboratory, Teknillinen Korkeakoulu. 8 December 2000. Archived from the original on 2008-02-18. Retrieved 2008-02-11.
  21. ^ "CUORE: The Coldest Heart in the Known Universe". INFN Press Release. Retrieved 21 October 2014.
  22. ^ "MIT team creates ultracold molecules". Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Massachusetts, Cambridge. 10 June 2015.
  23. ^ Kovachy, Tim; Hogan, Jason M.; Sugarbaker, Alex; Dickerson, Susannah M.; Donnelly, Christine A.; Overstreet, Chris; Kasevich, Mark A. (2015). "Matter Wave Lensing to Picokelvin Temperatures". Physical Review Letters. 114 (14): 143004. arXiv:1407.6995. Bibcode:2015PhRvL.114n3004K. doi:10.1103/PhysRevLett.114.143004. PMID 25910118.
  24. ^ "Coolest science ever headed to the space station". Science | AAAS. 2017-09-05. Retrieved 2017-09-24.
  25. ^ "Cold Atom Laboratory Mission". Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NASA. 2017. Archived from the original on 2013-03-29. Retrieved 2016-12-22.
  26. ^ "Cold Atom Laboratory Creates Atomic Dance". NASA News. 26 September 2014. Retrieved 2015-05-21.

External links[edit]