Tara Allinson awarded Best Project for Helium Filling Temperature Indicator
20 Sep 2023
- Tara Allinson







​​Award: “Best Project HNC Electrical & Electronic Engineering” 

The University Centre Newbury holds an annual exhibition to showcase the projects completed by students throughout their courses (including HNC, HND and degree - BEng). At this event, awards are presented to the best project of each course. 

The Pearson Set Theme for Engineering courses in 2023 was efficiency, meaning that projects must contribute to increase in efficiency through the reduction of time, cost and effort. 

For my project, I developed a new temperature indicative system to be used when filling cryostats. At the UCN expo on the 4th of July I was awarded “Best Project HNC Electrical & Electronic Engineering”. More information about the exhibition can be found here: Students shine at UCN Expo 

Project: “Helium Filling Temperature Indicator” 

Throughout the past 18 months, I have been developing a new temperature indicative system to solve an issue presented by the Cryogenics Team. This issue was the inefficient filling of cryostats, in which the sound or feeling of the helium flowing through the pipes was used to determine the state of the helium. If the cryostats were filled while the helium was in a gaseous state, then any liquid helium inside would be blasted out. As Helium is a finite resource rapidly increasing in cost (almost £30 per litre), losses must be reduced. 

This project involved the design and fabrication an electronic circuit, mechanical assemblies and additive manufactured components to interface with the cryogenic equipment.  

Impact: Efficiency, Sustainability & ISIS Strategy 2030 

Through this project I have increased the efficiency of the Helium filling process on the Orange Cryostats. The increase in efficiency was evidenced during testing, with no waste helium released during the filling process. The helium was fed into the cryostat with all excesses flowing into the helium recovery system. The increased efficiency is also evidenced by the rapid filling of the cryostat as well as requiring less effort from the cryogenics team. This increase in efficiency links into Sustainability as the decrease in helium waste means that less helium will need to be sourced. 

This project contributes to the facilities Helium recovery system which saves valuable Helium. The ISIS Helium recovery system currently allows 26 million litres of gaseous helium to be recycled every year. Helium recovery feeds into the Environmental Pillar of ISIS Sustainability, which prioritises improving our environment.  

This project has a big impact as it fits into the ISIS Strategy 2030, which “sets out a clear vision for ISIS to lead in the development and exploitation of neutron and muon sources, science, instrumentation and technology.”  

There are five priorities that contribute to this vision, and the most relevant can be seen below: 

Priority 2: Developing and deploying world-class technology and infrastructure. 

  • Continue to develop the source and options for future upgrades and enhancements. 

  • Pursue a managed programme of instrument development. 

  • Design, develop and engineer innovative software, sample environment and experimental support practices. 


Priority 5: Operating effectively, efficiently, safely and sustainably and being an example of comprehensive operational excellence. 

  • Continuously improve performance in all aspects of operation by working together and taking focused action. 

  • Continuously improve our safety culture and practices enabling everyone to work safely, in a safe environment. 

  • Promote environmental sustainability in all aspects of our operations and the impact of our activities on improving planetary health. 

  • Ensure alignment to STFC strategy, objectives, policies and practices and work collaboratively across the council and UKRI. 

  • Ensure sound resource and financial planning and management. 


Future: ISIS & beyond 

Once the cryogenics team have completed testing and fed back any improvements, I can produce a final design for production. Once I have 20 units ready and commissioned, I will carry out a handover to the Instrument and User Support team for support of the operational life of the devices. 

There is scope to incorporate priority 3 (below) through the international interest that has been expressed during the Cryo Users Group. A rollout to international facilities would contribute to a large-scale improvement in efficiency of helium filling process and therefore sustainability. 

Priority 3: Building partnerships and collaborations 

  • Develop relationships to support technical innovation and development of best practices in our operations. 

  • Engage with key stakeholders to promote ISIS, further our strategy and maximise opportunities for ourselves and our partners. 

  • Sustain and develop our international partnerships and build our international profile. 


The photo below shows the set-up of the helium fill in the cryogenics laboratory during testing: 


Tara Allinson  

Project Development Section - Electrical & Electronics User Support Group 

ISIS Experimental Operations Division 

Contact: Allinson, Tara (STFC,RAL,ISIS)