When sending millions of euros worth of cutting-edge technology into space, you really don’t want to be taking any chances. So, when testing the components of spacecraft, satellites or any sensitive flight hardware, scientists and engineers must recreate the rigours of space here on earth. They do this in places like the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL), the UK's leading space technology facility and part of the UK’s Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) in Oxfordshire. And Linde helps them do so.
RAL Space is just one of the many leading research facilities, universities and labs throughout the UK to which BOC (Linde’s UK operation) supplies scientific gases. The University and Research sector is a growing source of revenue for the company: “When I started this job 18 years ago, this was a six-million-pound business,” says Colin Middleton, Key Customer Manager, UK Universities & Research at BOC. “But we looked at it closely and saw great potential in an exciting sector,” he adds. It’s now worth just shy of 21 million pounds.
By being a reliable supplier of high-quality gases, Linde/BOC plays a small but vital role in enabling research and the advancement of science in many different projects across many different disciplines – with far-reaching implications and benefits. Here are just a few.
STFC RAL Space: Supporting science to infinity and beyond
Now there’s plenty humankind is yet to find out about outer space – hence the ongoing missions – but there are some fundamental things we do already know. It’s close to a perfect vacuum; and it can be cold. Very cold. Creating “very cold” in a lab calls for cryogenic gases – liquid nitrogen to be precise. And that’s where BOC comes in.
“Over the past few years our Nitrogen installations have been instrumental in the work carried out in the RAL Space testing facilities,” explains Debbie Lingard, Customer Development Specialist for the university and research sector, BOC. The liquid nitrogen is used to cryogenically cool thermal vacuum chambers and climatic chambers in which the durability of space-bound instruments or components is put to the test. It’s also used to provide a purge to critical instruments in the so-called clean rooms: keeping them free of any contamination – even a single speck of dust.