Sciencemadness Discussion Board

Testing an X-Stream helium compressor for LN2 generation

SuperOxide - 14-5-2023 at 15:15

For a while now I've had an enigmatic desire to be able to generate LN2 at home. I know nitrogen isn't very expensive, and liquid nitrogen is pretty cheap/easy to find, but having my own LN2 setup just seemed very desirable. I'm not sure I can articulate why, exactly, but I suspect some of you can sympathize with it :-)

I originally wanted a FPSC style cryocooler, but I couldn't find one that would get cold enough to condense nitrogen into a liquid. I did some research on the X-Stream systems, and found a working system that included the helium compressor (with only 17,450 hours on it), AL60 cold head and X-Stream control box. I plan to make the N2 purification system myself (already have a purification membrane).

The X-Stream setup hasn't arrived yet, but here's the main photo from the listing:

More photos here.

I don't plan on using this a lot initially, it'll probably go into storage until I get a garage to hook it up in, but I want to be able to test it so I can at least see if it is working as I expected. The X-Stream Operators Manual I found online is pretty useful and will definitely help, but I do have a quick question about the power requirements of the helium compressor. In the required specs, it states it needs 208 volts, single phase, 10 amp and 60 Hz. And while it doesn't state the wattage needed, I can estimate that from the volts x amps, which would put it at around ~2080 W.

I don't have an outlet that I can use for that where I'm at right now, so I was planning on purchasing a variac or transformer to run for the short term. One I have my eye on is this one, from the looks of it, it should the 110V to 230V and up to 3000W. But since I've never had to run anything with these types of power requirements, I was hoping that someone would be able to tell if that transformer is sufficient, or if they can recommend a better one.
I'm ok with "experimenting" with stuff, but when it comes to electricity I definitely look for some more experienced input. I don't want to risk starting a fire or frying the helium compressor just because of some stupid oversight.

ErgoloidMesylate - 14-5-2023 at 16:04

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
For a while now I've had an enigmatic desire to be able to generate LN2 at home. I know nitrogen isn't very expensive, and liquid nitrogen is pretty cheap/easy to find, but having my own LN2 setup just seemed very desirable. I'm not sure I can articulate why, exactly, but I suspect some of you can sympathize with it :-)

I originally wanted a FPSC style cryocooler, but I couldn't find one that would get cold enough to condense nitrogen into a liquid. I did some research on the X-Stream systems, and found a working system that included the helium compressor (with only 17,450 hours on it), AL60 cold head and X-Stream control box. I plan to make the N2 purification system myself (already have a purification membrane).

The X-Stream setup hasn't arrived yet, but here's the main photo from the listing:

More photos here.

I don't plan on using this a lot initially, it'll probably go into storage until I get a garage to hook it up in, but I want to be able to test it so I can at least see if it is working as I expected. The X-Stream Operators Manual I found online is pretty useful and will definitely help, but I do have a quick question about the power requirements of the helium compressor. In the required specs, it states it needs 208 volts, single phase, 10 amp and 60 Hz. And while it doesn't state the wattage needed, I can estimate that from the volts x amps, which would put it at around ~2080 W.

I don't have an outlet that I can use for that where I'm at right now, so I was planning on purchasing a variac or transformer to run for the short term. One I have my eye on is this one, from the looks of it, it should the 110V to 230V and up to 3000W. But since I've never had to run anything with these types of power requirements, I was hoping that someone would be able to tell if that transformer is sufficient, or if they can recommend a better one.
I'm ok with "experimenting" with stuff, but when it comes to electricity I definitely look for some more experienced input. I don't want to risk starting a fire or frying the helium compressor just because of some stupid oversight.


Some labs these days generate their own nitrogen gas, instead of using cylinders, which over time are more expensive. Initial costs up front for the plug in machines can range from 1 to several thousand dollars, but over time is cheaper. I thought they did pressure swing, just plug them in, some have at least 2 stages so it is continuous generation, while the other is regenerating.

[Edited on 15-5-2023 by ErgoloidMesylate]

SuperOxide - 14-5-2023 at 16:16

Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  
Some labs these days generate their own nitrogen gas, instead of using cylinders, which over time are more expensive. Initial costs up front for the plug in machines can range from 1 to several thousand dollars, but over time is cheaper.


Yeah, I actually already have a separation membrane on the way as well (from China, so taking some time to get here, product specs are in the attachment), and I have most of the other parts needed for a crude setup (sieves, oil coalescing filter, activated charcoal, etc).

Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  
I thought they did pressure swing, just plug them in, some have at least 2 stages so it is continuous generation, while the other is regenerating.

Some of them use PSA, some of them use a nitrogen separation membrane. I almost got a used PSA setup, but I want to be able to do maintenance on my own, and I think the PSA setup is a bit more complicated than I would like to deal with, so a simple sep membrane will work just fine for me.

Attachment: MNH-1512A.pdf (357kB)
This file has been downloaded 96 times


Texium - 14-5-2023 at 19:22

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
In the required specs, it states it needs 208 volts, single phase, 10 amp and 60 Hz. And while it doesn't state the wattage needed, I can estimate that from the volts x amps, which would put it at around ~2080 W.

I don't have an outlet that I can use for that where I'm at right now, so I was planning on purchasing a variac or transformer to run for the short term.
208 volts is common in commercial buildings and apartments in the US that are supplied by three phase power. Running a circuit across two of the three legs gives you 208, so it’s the standard for running high power devices in those buildings (for instance, electric stoves and dryers in apartments will run on 208 and be slightly less powerful than the same appliance in a house that runs on 240 single phase). If you live in an apartment, you may already have one or more 208 V outlets. In a single family home, you’ll only have 120 or 240. Many devices will work just as well (or better) on 240 rather than 208, but in this case it could be specifically designed for 208 since it’s a commercial device.

SuperOxide - 14-5-2023 at 20:29

Quote: Originally posted by Texium  
Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
In the required specs, it states it needs 208 volts, single phase, 10 amp and 60 Hz. And while it doesn't state the wattage needed, I can estimate that from the volts x amps, which would put it at around ~2080 W.

I don't have an outlet that I can use for that where I'm at right now, so I was planning on purchasing a variac or transformer to run for the short term.
208 volts is common in commercial buildings and apartments in the US that are supplied by three phase power. Running a circuit across two of the three legs gives you 208, so it’s the standard for running high power devices in those buildings (for instance, electric stoves and dryers in apartments will run on 208 and be slightly less powerful than the same appliance in a house that runs on 240 single phase). If you live in an apartment, you may already have one or more 208 V outlets. In a single family home, you’ll only have 120 or 240. Many devices will work just as well (or better) on 240 rather than 208, but in this case it could be specifically designed for 208 since it’s a commercial device.

Hey Texium, thanks for the reply.

This isn't an apartment, it's just a very old house. We do obviously have some heavy appliances plugged in (refrigerator, washing machine, etc), I think into 240V outlets, but I don't know for sure. I don't really want to unplug them and move to test this (I was going to test outside).
And there was a warning in the manual: The Black power cord on the helium compressor is not to be used with a plug:

Then states that someone who knows more about electricity than I do should wire it to a disconnect box. But I would much rather purchase a transformer and use that..

So, back to my original question. Do you think the transformer I was looking at would suffice? I know I'll need to buy an adaptor for that as well, as this is an unusual plug:

It looks like the type of plugs used on fabric heating mantles, but it has three prongs instead of 2 (one is ground, I'm assuming). It looks like a L6-20, L6-30, L5-20 or L5-30.

Note: The plug above is actually from a photo from a different listing, but the person I'm buying mine from said it looks like the same plug.

ErgoloidMesylate - 14-5-2023 at 20:58

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
Quote: Originally posted by Texium  
Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
In the required specs, it states it needs 208 volts, single phase, 10 amp and 60 Hz. And while it doesn't state the wattage needed, I can estimate that from the volts x amps, which would put it at around ~2080 W.

I don't have an outlet that I can use for that where I'm at right now, so I was planning on purchasing a variac or transformer to run for the short term.
208 volts is common in commercial buildings and apartments in the US that are supplied by three phase power. Running a circuit across two of the three legs gives you 208, so it’s the standard for running high power devices in those buildings (for instance, electric stoves and dryers in apartments will run on 208 and be slightly less powerful than the same appliance in a house that runs on 240 single phase). If you live in an apartment, you may already have one or more 208 V outlets. In a single family home, you’ll only have 120 or 240. Many devices will work just as well (or better) on 240 rather than 208, but in this case it could be specifically designed for 208 since it’s a commercial device.

Hey Texium, thanks for the reply.

This isn't an apartment, it's just a very old house. We do obviously have some heavy appliances plugged in (refrigerator, washing machine, etc), I think into 240V outlets, but I don't know for sure. I don't really want to unplug them and move to test this (I was going to test outside).
And there was a warning in the manual: The Black power cord on the helium compressor is not to be used with a plug:

Then states that someone who knows more about electricity than I do should wire it to a disconnect box. But I would much rather purchase a transformer and use that..

So, back to my original question. Do you think the transformer I was looking at would suffice? I know I'll need to buy an adaptor for that as well, as this is an unusual plug:

It looks like the type of plugs used on fabric heating mantles, but it has three prongs instead of 2 (one is ground, I'm assuming). It looks like a L6-20, L6-30, L5-20 or L5-30.

Note: The plug above is actually from a photo from a different listing, but the person I'm buying mine from said it looks like the same plug.


I don't think that will work.

Might need an electrician. I suspect this is what you would need, and it is not cheap:

https://www.larsonelectronics.com/product/146762/1-phase-buc...

Except you need 10 amps.

[Edited on 15-5-2023 by ErgoloidMesylate]

[Edited on 15-5-2023 by ErgoloidMesylate]

SuperOxide - 14-5-2023 at 21:24

Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  
I don't think that will work.

Might need an electrician. I suspect this is what you would need, and it is not cheap:

https://www.larsonelectronics.com/product/146762/1-phase-buc...

Except you need 10 amps.

Yeah, it requires 10 amps.

I think what you linked to is a step down transformer, going from 240V to 208V. Not what I'm looking for...

I'm certain that this can be powered from a transformer (probably even the one I linked to), I just wanted to have someone that's more confident in the electrical aspect to confirm it. I have some time to decide, so I'm not ordering anything right this moment.

I guess worst case scenario, I blow a fuse or trip a breaker (well, I guess worst case scenario is I eat mains power, but I think I can avoid that).

[Edited on 15-5-2023 by SuperOxide]

ErgoloidMesylate - 14-5-2023 at 21:39

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  
I don't think that will work.

Might need an electrician. I suspect this is what you would need, and it is not cheap:

https://www.larsonelectronics.com/product/146762/1-phase-buc...

Except you need 10 amps.

Yeah, it requires 10 amps.

I think what you linked to is a step down transformer, going from 240V to 208V. Not what I'm looking for...

I'm certain that this can be powered from a transformer (probably even the one I linked to), I just wanted to have someone that's more confident in the electrical aspect to confirm it. I have some time to decide, so I'm not ordering anything right this moment.

I guess worst case scenario, I blow a fuse or trip a breaker (well, I guess worst case scenario is I eat mains power, but I think I can avoid that).

[Edited on 15-5-2023 by SuperOxide]


If you run too much power into it, it can short or fry your electronics of your device, before any breaker trips.

SuperOxide - 14-5-2023 at 22:06

Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  

If you run too much power into it, it can short or fry your electronics of your device, before any breaker trips.

Hence why I'm here asking for input from someone more knowledgeable than either you or I ;-)

ErgoloidMesylate - 14-5-2023 at 22:16

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  
Quote: Originally posted by ErgoloidMesylate  

If you run too much power into it, it can short or fry your electronics of your device, before any breaker trips.

Hence why I'm here asking for input from someone more knowledgeable than either you or I ;-)


I found what you are needing but it is 775$ so i did not post it here or message it to you, obviously you wouldn't want to do that.
I haven't found a 10 amp variac that hits that voltage, and radio shack apparently closed so you can't build your own isolation transformer and circuit to give you the waveform and power you need.

Texium - 15-5-2023 at 05:35

Quote: Originally posted by SuperOxide  

Hey Texium, thanks for the reply.

This isn't an apartment, it's just a very old house. We do obviously have some heavy appliances plugged in (refrigerator, washing machine, etc), I think into 240V outlets, but I don't know for sure. I don't really want to unplug them and move to test this (I was going to test outside).
And there was a warning in the manual: The Black power cord on the helium compressor is not to be used with a plug:

Then states that someone who knows more about electricity than I do should wire it to a disconnect box. But I would much rather purchase a transformer and use that..

So, back to my original question. Do you think the transformer I was looking at would suffice? I know I'll need to buy an adaptor for that as well, as this is an unusual plug:

It looks like the type of plugs used on fabric heating mantles, but it has three prongs instead of 2 (one is ground, I'm assuming). It looks like a L6-20, L6-30, L5-20 or L5-30.

Note: The plug above is actually from a photo from a different listing, but the person I'm buying mine from said it looks like the same plug.
First of all, you can easily tell what circuits you have available in your house without looking at any plugs. Just look at your breaker box. In the US, we have split phase power. From the transformer out on the street, two 120 V hot lines are run to your house, but they are 180° out of phase with each other. Connecting between either of those legs to neutral gives you 120 V, which is what is used for all of our normal 120 V power outlets. If instead you bridge the 120 V and -120 V lines, you get a 240 V potential. Because of this, 240 V breakers are really just two breakers combined into one, attached to both busbars of the breaker box. The three wires connected to the plug in that photo are actually two hots and a ground, no neutral (technically)! See this very helpful video for a more detailed explanation: https://youtu.be/jMmUoZh3Hq4

I also live in an old house (built 1941) and I don’t have any 240 V circuits available. I have a gas stove, gas dryer, gas furnace, and no air conditioning, so everything that I have can run on 120 V. If it’s a similar case for you, you may be SOL, but I assume you must have AC at least, given your location. If you have an electric stove or electric dryer, then you’re guaranteed to have 240 V outlets. Fridges and washing machines run on 120, just typically on their own circuit since they draw fairly high amps when running.

Bottom line is though, sorry to burst your bubble, but a transformer like that is certainly not going to work. Since you have an old house, your wiring is likely 14 gauge, so your circuits are limited to 15 amps at 120 V. That only gives you 1800 watts to work with, and the breaker should trip slightly below that. It’s impossible to get more energy than that out of it no matter what sort of transformer you use. As you rightly determined, the device will draw about 2080 watts. If you’re lucky enough to have more modern 12 gauge wire with 20 amp breakers, you could get 2400 watts maximum, which should be enough, but I’d still feel uncomfortable using it for that, not being too familiar with these step-up transformers and what they’re meant to handle. Check your breaker box and see what your breakers are rated for. If you have 20 A breakers then you’re in luck. If you have an Edison fuse box, and it contains 20 A fuses, DON’T trust it. Shut off a circuit and check the wire gauge going to one of its outlets to see if it’s 14 or 12. If it’s 14, then it’s only meant to take 15 amps, and your circuit is overfused (meaning you should go and replace the 20 A fuses with 15 A ones or mini-breakers).

If you have 240 V circuits though, you can get 15 A at 240 V, which is more than sufficient for your device’s needs. A step-down transformer that gets you to the ballpark of 208-220 V will get you the power you need safely. Or, it may be that the device would run fine with 240, and you could directly plug it in. I’d try and contact the manufacturer and ask them if this is possible, because that would be the easiest solution by far.

Rainwater - 16-5-2023 at 00:21

So that plug is a twist lock. Cant see the number, lets assume its 20amps, but from the picture I can see it is 250v rated.
From the specs you provided (here) there is enough information to do an install.

single phase ( same as split phase ) 120/230 will work just fine.
For 208 equipment, the standard deviation is 10% which they spec, making the high range 230v.

If you have no experience doing electrical work.
Hire someone qualified. Lets see what it will run you

The sheet specs 10 amps. So you need a 15 amp circuit.
Disconnect is about $20 (link
outlet $20 (here)
Wire, you need multiple circuits, 4 are shown,
2 208v 15amp citcuits.
1 120v 15 amp circuit ( those to can share one breaker)
12-2 romex 250ft, gives 3 runs 75ft long ouch$$$ (here)
Breakers very based on what manufacturer you have ($50~100)

Assuming easy access to run the wiring and not having to fish walls or ceiling, 75ft from the panel max.
2 disconnects, 3 outlets, 3 breakers, wire, 2 hours labor and markup
a reasonable install will cost $750, i wouldn't pay more that 850. Anything under 350 and their doing it at cost(questionable)

SuperOxide - 20-5-2023 at 09:51

Rainwater, thanks for the reply. I appreciate such a detailed response!

Quote: Originally posted by Rainwater  
So that plug is a twist lock. Cant see the number, lets assume its 20amps, but from the picture I can see it is 250v rated.

Yeah, I can't tell which it is either (at least not when researching it). There's also a possibility that the plug in the photo is one that was swapped out from a factory one, since that photo isn't from the same listing/seller. I asked the person I purchased the helium compressor through to please send me a photo of the plug, so I can make sure I have a compatible socket for it when it gets here (he hasn't done so yet).

Quote: Originally posted by Rainwater  
From the specs you provided (here) there is enough information to do an install.

I'm not sure what you mean here. The 3000 W transformer I linked to (and you linked to in your reply) doesn't need any type of install. It can be plugged right into a 120v outlet, and outputs 230v. Are you implying that I will have to do some electrical installation just to get that transformer to work?.. Seems odd.

Quote: Originally posted by Rainwater  
single phase ( same as split phase ) 120/230 will work just fine.
For 208 equipment, the standard deviation is 10% which they spec, making the high range 230v.

If you have no experience doing electrical work.
Hire someone qualified. Lets see what it will run you

The sheet specs 10 amps. So you need a 15 amp circuit.
Disconnect is about $20 (link
outlet $20 (here)
Wire, you need multiple circuits, 4 are shown,
2 208v 15amp citcuits.
1 120v 15 amp circuit ( those to can share one breaker)
12-2 romex 250ft, gives 3 runs 75ft long ouch$$$ (here)
Breakers very based on what manufacturer you have ($50~100)

Assuming easy access to run the wiring and not having to fish walls or ceiling, 75ft from the panel max.
2 disconnects, 3 outlets, 3 breakers, wire, 2 hours labor and markup
a reasonable install will cost $750, i wouldn't pay more that 850. Anything under 350 and their doing it at cost(questionable)

Whenever/wherever I do set this up permanently (I'm saving for a house of my own), I will absolutely make sure there's an appropriate circuit for it, even if I have to hire someone to do it (which will probably be the case). But for now, all I really want to do is run it for maybe a few days for testing it out, so I can make sure I got a working device. It would suck to put it into storage for a year then find out way later that I was sold a defective/broken unit.

So, would the 3000 Watt Voltage Converter Transformer work sufficiently just off of a regular 120v wall outlet in my house for a few tests over a few days?

Rainwater - 20-5-2023 at 11:37

I may have missed an important detail,
if your house has a normal single phase power, then no transformer is required. a picture of your service entrance will help.
Showing your power meter and the writing on it

Edit:
Had to read everything again.
Texium is correct.
in my opinion using a transformer is a bad idea(see below), high dollar equipment deserves a proper install. Even if its just to test functiality.

So assuming the box you want to use for power will work. The odds of you having a proper circuit slim and none. Its simply not a standard circuit for anything but special equipment.

So 240v 3000va = 3000÷240 = 12.5 amps
120v 3000va = 3000÷120 = 25 amps
These are the simple load conversations.

Transformers usually pull 40%~60% of fla at no load and 110 ~125% fla at full load.
So just pluging it in will draw about 10~15 amps and peek power will be 27.5~31.25.

Without knowing the exact load applied we have to assume worst case scenario and prep for the 32 amps, after the 1.25 safety factor your now looking at a 40amp circuit for the full 3kva.
But this only applies if the loads peek power falls under 3kva.


[Edited on 20-5-2023 by Rainwater]
Home depot rents generators by the week

[Edited on 20-5-2023 by Rainwater]

Dr.Bob - 23-5-2023 at 16:22

You can't easily run a 208/10 amp device off of 110 using a transformer, as that would require over 2000 watts, which is beyond most 110 circuits, and would need a special outlet. as stated, you are much simpler to just add a 220 circuit, whgich most electricians can do easily, and then have them use the proper outlet for your plug. Maybe in a garage or somewhere that could be reached from outdoors. You can then use 220 instead of 208, which will work fine.

The actual idea of making LN2 is awesome, we use liquid N2 quite a bit at work, and never thought of just making in-situ. We also use liquid helium in out NMRs, and making or recovering that would be even better, but those systems are insanely expensive to purchase unless you own multiple large NMRs. But a dewar of L Heiulium is now over $1000 per 100 L. Pretty expensive and we don;t even get ballons with it. But a neat post of the equipment. Just get a 220 outlet and it will work fine.