The Engineer's Notebook Blog

The Engineer's Notebook

The Engineer's Notebook is a shared blog for entries that don't fit into a specific CR4 blog. Topics may range from grammar to physics and could be research or or an individual's thoughts - like you'd jot down in a well-used notebook.

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CR4 Tours Qdrive: Very Cool!

Posted June 24, 2008 1:59 PM by april05

Last week, engineers from GlobalSpec (including some bloggers for CR4) were invited to tour Qdrive, a manufacturer of cryogenic coolers, at 302 Tenth Street in Troy, New York. As described by co-founder John Corey, Qdrive was created in 2001 as a spin-off from a parent company called the Clever Fellows Innovation Consortium (CFIC). Today, Qdrive holds twelve patents and is pioneering the use of Stirling thermodynamic cycle devices in a variety of applications.

Qdrive's production facility is located in an historic, Troy firehouse that was built in 1896. The building was once used to house a horse-driven fire company, and much of the history has been preserved by the building's current occupants.

Our tour of Qdrive began with an explanation of the technology and a discussion of the company's product lines. Traditional Stirling engines use two pistons that are designed to run slightly out of sync. Acoustic Stirling engines don't use any physical pistons. Instead, they use pressure waves that are designed to lag each other. This lag in pressure waves creates "virtual pistons" and provides the same thermal results with no moving parts.

One of the more exciting product applications is Qdrive's design to provide portable oxygen ("liquefaction"). Traditional portable oxygen tanks are bulky. Often, they are difficult for users, including the elderly, to handle. Liquid oxygen is much smaller and easier to carry around, but requires a daily delivery service. Qdrive's new technology can create a day's supply of liquid oxygen in the home. It also has a small footprint and offers improved safety. Already, Qdrive's technology has been integrated into military fighter jets.

Next, our tour continued in Qdrive's assembly area. While showing us hardware components from the assembly shelves, John Corey detailed the internal workings of devices that use the Stirling Cycle to produce highly energy-efficient cooling. The group from GlobalSpec looked on as he displayed in-house designed components that incorporate tight-tolerances and clever design techniques. An example of this is a design for a high-density, two-piece, interlocking heat sink that was shown to the team. Other components on display included linear motors and shafts.

Our group then moved upstairs, to a structure annexed to the original firehouse. This new structure was built using "green" design principals in its manufacture, in line with Qdrive's product focus on energy efficiency. Once in the annex's conference room, we were shown a demonstration device that quickly produced spot-cooling at approximately -150° C. The device had a flexible metal-hose arm, and cooling at the tip was the result of a specialized molecular movement resulting from Qdrive's proprietary design.

Lastly, we moved to the first floor of the annex facility, to see a food cooler designed for the U.S. Army. By integrating a standard, MIL-SPEC, Army-green food shipping container with a cryocooler at the top, Qdrive has developed a "green" technology that is energy efficient and can quietly and dependably keep food fresh for troops in the field. With minimal moving parts and no circulating oil, maintenance is almost nil. Ultimately, this Qdrive refrigerator has a consumer application for our homes.

Many thanks to John Corey, our tour guide at Qdrive in Troy, New York! And thanks to all of the Qdrive employees and contractors who made our visit so much fun.


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Engineering Fields - Control Engineering - New Member China - Member - New Member

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Re: CR4 Tours Qdrive: Very Cool!

06/25/2008 9:54 PM

a quick tour? post some pics to share us all.

who has such chance to visit?

Engineering Fields - Mechanical Engineering - BSME Clarkson University 1992 Engineering Fields - Software Engineering - BSME Clarkson University 1992 Fans of Old Computers - TRS-80 - DataRock 1.0

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Re: CR4 Tours Qdrive: Very Cool!

06/26/2008 4:39 PM

Ni-Hao CNPower,

We're still working on the pictures - thanks for your patience.

In the meantime, you can go to the company's web site, There are many nice pictures, and a more detailed discussion of Qdrive's unique, "acoustic" Stirling technology.

Bloggers in our engineering department (trained Electrical, Mechanical, Material engineers), myself included, traveled across town, near to Rensselaer Polytechnic, for the company tour that Qdrive's founder was so nice to offer.


PS What part of China are you from? I was in Chongqing, Guanzhou, and Shanghai a few years ago, and very much enjoyed the "hot pot" delicacy in Chongqing.


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Re: CR4 Tours Qdrive: Very Cool!

07/02/2008 1:15 PM

This process was previewed in the old "Compressed Air" magazine before publication stopped. At that point it was a university lab curiousity, just starting to look for practical application. Nice to see it starting to get off the ground.

Eventually, one needs to realize that it is far less important to be the smartest person in the room than it is to sit next to that person and make friends.
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Re: CR4 Tours Qdrive: Very Cool!

07/07/2008 11:17 AM

Here are some pictures of Qdrive products, as sent to me by april05.

This is a cruciform cryocooler.

This is an L-form cryocooler.

This is the cross-section of an acoustic stirling component. (Sorry, but it's a bit fuzzy.)

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