After completing his PhD in the low temperature group at Lancaster University, Chris Lawson completed a post-doc and then joined a company in the Netherlands that makes ultra-low temperature cooling devices for, mainly, the quantum computing market. After meeting ISIS' Oleg Kirichek, Chris because aware of the work going on here, and joined the cryogenics group in 2016.
Each year about 500 experiments at ISIS require cryogenic cooling, and the number of experiments that require ULT conditions has grown from around 20 in 2008 to over 100 in both 2019 and 2020. The ULT experiments take samples down to 25-30 mK using dilution fridges that rely on quantum mechanical effects. “We are limited by how many we can run by the amount of equipment, and number of people trained to use it." Chris adds, “We are currently investing in new kit, and actively recruiting new people, so I'm hopeful we can expand beyond our current limits."
Despite being on call over evenings and weekends, Chris finds the job challenging and fun. “As well as the day to day experiment management, we also have a number of development projects ongoing: we are hoping to image the dilution fridge mixing chamber using IMAT to see what's going on inside. Working here brings the freedom to run with a good idea: the attitude is very positive and encouraging."
In addition to his work in the cryogenics team, Chris plays an active role in the ISIS Public Engagement programme. His liquid nitrogen show has engaged many visitors to ISIS, getting people involved in super low temperatures that they would otherwise not be exposed to.