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Title:
A PRESSURE LIMITING VALVE FOR A CRYOSTAT CONTAINING A CRYOGEN AND A SUPERCONDUCTING MAGNET
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/150009
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
This invention relates to an accessory device (14) for a quench valve (8) of a cryostat (1), in particular for use in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. Furthermore, this invention relates to a method of enabling a cryostat (1) containing a cryogen (3) to be safely transported by air transportation. In order to achieve this, an accessory device (14) for a quench valve (8) of a cryostat (1) is provided, said accessory device (14) being adapted to be installed to the quench valve (8), thereby raising the cracking pressure of the quench valve (8) without changing the operability of the quench valve (8).

Inventors:
RETZ, Patrick William (60A Park Road, North Leigh Witney, Oxfordshire OX29 6RX, GB)
TIGWELL, Neil Charles (19 Davenport Road, Witney Oxfordshire OX28 6EL, GB)
Application Number:
EP2015/054537
Publication Date:
October 08, 2015
Filing Date:
March 04, 2015
Export Citation:
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Assignee:
SIEMENS PLC (Faraday House, Sir William Siemens Square Frimley, Camberley Surrey GU16 8QD, GB)
International Classes:
H01F6/02; F16K17/04; F17C13/00
Foreign References:
GB2468491A2010-09-15
GB2463062A2010-03-03
GB2472589A2011-02-16
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
FRENCH, Clive Harry et al. (Siemens Aktiengesellschaft, Postfach 22 16 34, Munich, 80506, DE)
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Claims:
Claims

1. A pressure limiting valve for a cryostat (1) containing a cryogen (3) and a superconducting magnet, the pressure limiting valve comprising:

- a quench valve (8) allowing cryogen gas to exit the cryostat

(I) in the event of a quench of the superconducting magnet; and

- a cracking-pressure-raising accessory removably attached to the quench valve,

wherein the quench valve comprises a valve plate (9) which is urged against a valve seat (10) by a first spring arrangement

(II) ,

and wherein the accessory comprises a main body (15) detachably mounted on the quench valve (8) or the cryostat (1), and further comprises a second spring arrangement (24) having a number of second spring elements (26) directly or indirectly acting upon the valve plate (9) and further urging said valve plate against said valve seat (10), said main body (15) providing a counter bearing for the spring arrangement (24) .

2. The pressure limiting valve as claimed in claim 1, wherein the accessory further comprises at least one plunger (25) , said at least one plunger (25) directly or indirectly acting upon the valve plate (9), said at least one plunger (25) being

spring-loaded by at least one of said number of second spring elements (26).

3. The pressure limiting valve as claimed in claim 1 or 2, wherein the main body (15) of the accessory device (14) serves as an enclosure (16) for the spring elements (26) and/or for at least parts (11) of the quench valve (8) .

4. The pressure limiting valve as claimed in one of claims 1 to 3, wherein the main body (15) of the accessory device (14) comprises a number of openings (20) adapted to serve as vent holes .

5. A method of enabling a cryostat (1) containing a cryogen (3) and a superconducting magnet to be safely transported by air transportation, said cryostat (1) comprising a quench valve (8) allowing cryogen gas to exit the cryostat (1) in the event of a quench of the superconducting magnet, wherein the quench valve comprises a valve plate (9) which is urged against a valve seat

(10) by a first spring arrangement (11),

the method comprising the step of, prior to air transportation, removably attaching a cracking-pressure-raising accessory to the quench valve, wherein the accessory comprises a main body (15) detachably mounted on the quench valve (8) or the cryostat (1), and further comprises a second spring arrangement (24) having a number of second spring elements (26) directly or indirectly acting upon the valve plate (9) and further urging said valve plate against said valve seat (10) , said main body (15) providing a counter bearing for the spring arrangement (24) .

6. Use of a quench valve (8) of a cryostat (1) containing a cryogen (3) and a superconducting magnet, as pressure-relief device in case of air transportation of said cryostat (1),

wherein the quench valve comprises a valve plate (9) which is urged against a valve seat (10) by a first spring arrangement

(11) , to which quench valve (8) a cracking-pressure-raising accessory device (14) has been installed prior to air

transportation, the accessory comprising a main body (15) detachably mounted on the quench valve (8) or the cryostat (1), and further comprises a second spring arrangement (24) having a number of second spring elements (26) directly or indirectly acting upon the valve plate (9) and further urging said valve plate against said valve seat (10) , said main body (15) providing a counter bearing for the spring arrangement (24) .

Description:
A PRESSURE LIMITING VALVE FOR A CRYOSTAT CONTAINING A CRYOGEN AND

A SUPERCONDUCTING MAGNET

This invention relates to an accessory device for a quench valve of a cryostat, in particular for use in a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) system. Furthermore, this invention relates to a method of enabling a cryostat containing a cryogen to be safely transported by air transportation. Superconducting magnet systems are used for medical diagnosis, for example in magnetic resonance imaging systems. A requirement of an MRI magnet is that it produces a stable, homogeneous, magnetic field. In order to achieve the required stability, it is common to use a superconducting magnet system which operates at very low temperature. The temperature is typically maintained by cooling the superconductor by immersion in a low temperature cryogenic fluid, also known as a cryogen, such as liquid helium.

The superconducting magnet system typically comprises a set of superconductor windings for producing a magnetic field, the windings being immersed in a cryogenic fluid to keep the windings at a superconducting temperature, the superconductor windings and the cryogen being contained within a cryogen vessel. Superconducting magnets are susceptible to quench events, in which, for one of a number of reasons, part of the superconducting magnet ceases to be superconducting. The resulting resistance in part of the magnet causes heat due to the current flowing through it. This rapidly causes further parts of the superconducting magnet to cease superconducting. The result is that all of the energy which was stored in the magnetic field of the magnet is suddenly released as heat. In a superconducting magnet cooled by a liquid cryogen, this typically results in rapid boil-off of a large volume of the cryogen, with gaseous and liquid cryogen being expelled from the cryostat at high speed. During a quench, it is essential that the escaping cryogen gas is allowed to exit the cryostat in a safe manner. The exit point typically opens by responding to an increase in the pressure within the cryostat. It is known to provide a quench valve to control the exit point. The quench valve is closed until a certain pressure is reached within the cryostat. Once the cryostat pressure reaches the certain value, the quench valve is opened by the pressure acting upon it. During transportation of an already assembled system, filled with cryogen, no cooling can be provided to the cryogen, which leads to a heat input into the cryostat, leading to a boil-off of cryogen. Therefore, during air transportation, relief devices must be available in order to guarantee a pressure-relief to protect against overpressure. In other words, a significant build-up of pressure within the cryostat shall be prevented.

However, the change of atmospheric pressure during an air shipment, even in a pressurized compartment, can cause a problem with the relief devices employed. Ordinary relief valves can freeze and plug up following rapid ejection of cold gas following altitude changes. For this reason, for air transportation, each magnet system has to be fitted with an absolute pressure relief valve, which is unaffected by atmospheric pressure. In addition, in order to comply with safety regulations, an independent second device has to be present, which second device can be a gauge device .

It is permissible to use the existing quench valve as the gauge device. However, the differential pressure required to crack the quench valve is less than the differential between the pressure within the magnet system and the pressure within the hold of the air craft during air transportation. Therefore, the quench valve would lift and vent excessive cryogen gas. In order to overcome this, it is known to blank off the outlet of the quench valve by an air tight plate fitted with e.g. a 13 PSIG valve. Additionally, a hand valve is fitted, which may also be used to relief pressure before removing the plate. The whole assembly needs to be leak tight and fully tested, making this an expensive solution. Furthermore, the assembly is discarded after arrival on operational site. It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a simple and reliable technique to ensure a safe air transportation of a cryostat containing a cryogen.

This object is achieved according to the invention by apparatus, methods and use as defined in the appended claims.

A core idea of the invention is to enable the existing quench valve of the cryostat to serve as a pressure-relief device during air transportation of the cryostat, in a way that the quench valve remains fully operable. In other words, the operating ability of the quench valve is not restricted. Merely the cracking pressure of the quench valve is temporarily raised for the purpose of air transportation. By this means, a safe air transportation of a cryostat containing a cryogen is achieved in a simple, reliable and very effective way, thereby following safety regulations.

Instead of removing parts of the existing quench valve, and installing an additional hand valve in case of air

transportation, as suggest in the prior art, the invention suggests to raise the valve cracking pressure in order to improve the capability of the existing quench valve. The cracking pressure of the quench valve is raised such that the expected differential pressure between the inside of the cryostat and the air craft hold is less than the raised cracking pressure. No additional valve is required. The accessory device, which is used for raising the cracking pressure of the quench valve, may be used several times.

These and other aspects of the invention will be further elaborated on the basis of the following embodiments which are defined in the dependent claims. Preferably, the accessory device comprises a main body, which is mountable on the quench valve or on the cryostat. The accessory device further comprises a spring arrangement, which employs a number of spring elements. The spring elements are adapted to directly or indirectly act upon a valve member, e.g. a valve plate, upon a burst disc or any other suited moveable part of the quench valve, by this means raising the cracking pressure of the quench valve. Thereby, the main body provides a counter bearing for the spring arrangement, more precisely for the number of spring elements of the spring arrangement. By this means, the cracking pressure of the quench valve can be raised by means of a very simple, cheep, and re-usable mechanical device. The tension of the spring elements defines the new cracking pressure of the quench valve. For example, the cracking pressure can be raised to 13 PSIG by selecting suitable spring elements showing an appropriate spring load.

In order to realize a particular reliable functional principle, it is suggested to preferably use at least one plunger for acting upon the valve member, the burst disc or the like. Preferably, the at least one plunger is spring-loaded by at least one of said number of spring elements. In other words, the spring elements do not act directly upon the quench valve, but are employed to load the at least one plunger, which directly act on the valve. According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the main body of the accessory device is adapted to serve as an enclosure for the number of spring elements and/or for at least parts of the quench valve. For example, the main body is shaped in form of a cylinder, box or dome. By this means, the main body protects the number of spring elements and/or the parts of the quench valve inside the enclosure from harmful environmental conditions. At the same time, the main body prevent fragments of the burst disc escaping in the event of a disc rupture, thereby protecting the surroundings of the cryostat. Alternatively, the main body of the accessory device does not form an enclosure, but is simply a rigid plate or any other suitable counter bearing for the spring elements, which is fitted to the quench valve or the cryostat, e.g. by means of a distance piece construction.

According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the accessory device comprises guiding elements, which are adapted to guide at least one, preferably all of the spring elements. The guiding of the spring elements is carried out such that damages to the quench valve during fitting of the accessory device are prevented. In particular, damages can be prevented, which may occur i.e. during mounting of the main body to the quench valve or the cryostat and/or during positioning the spring elements and/or the at least one plunger.

These and other aspects of the invention will be described in detail hereinafter, by way of example, with reference to the following embodiments and the accompanying drawings; in which:

Fig. 1 shows a schematic illustration of a cryostat (prior art),

Fig. 2 shows a schematic illustration of a quench valve of the cryostat in a sectional view (prior art) ,

Fig. 3 shows a schematic illustration of a quench valve of the cryostat, according to the present invention, in a sectional view . r

A cross-section of a superconducting magnet system for use in an MRI system is illustrated in Fig. 1. Superconductive magnet coils (not shown) are provided in a cryogen vessel 2 of a cryostat 1. The coils are immersed in a liquid cryogen 3, e.g. liquid helium. A central bore 4 is provided to accommodate a patient for examination. An access neck 5 with vent tube 6 is provided at the top of the cryostat 1 to allow access to the cryogen vessel 2. For clarity reasons, other parts of the cryostat 1, e.g. the refrigerator for providing active refrigeration to cool the cryogen 3, the outer vacuum chamber, or the thermal radiation shields, are not shown.

As illustrated in Fig. 2 in more detail, a turret outer assembly 7 encloses upper extremities of the access neck 5, and provides a normal exit path for cryogen gas from cryogen vessel 2. Turret outer assembly 7 is joined to the cryogen vessel 2 in a leak-tight manner and defines an interior volume which is separated from atmosphere by a protective valve and/or burst disc, in this case by a quench valve 8. The quench valve 8 is closed until a certain pressure is reached within the cryogen vessel 2. Once the cryostat pressure reaches the certain value, the quench valve 8 is opened by the pressure acting upon it. Quench valve 8 includes a valve plate 9 which is held against valve seat 10 by a first spring arrangement 11. In case of overpressure within cryogen vessel 2, a corresponding pressure of cryogen gas acting on the inner side 12 of the valve plate 9 will exceed the pressure acting on the outer side 13 of the valve plate 9 sufficiently to overcome the force of the first spring arrangement 11 and open the quench valve 8. Cryogen gas will escape, maintaining the pressure within the cryogen vessel 2 at an acceptable level. Once the pressure in the cryogen vessel 2 drops below the pressure needed to keep the quench valve 8 open, first spring arrangement 11 will press the valve plate 9 back into contact with valve seat 10. Part of the valve plate 9 may be formed by a burst disc, not visible in Fig. 2 as it lies in the plane of the valve plate 9. In case the differential pressure across the valve plate 9 becomes much higher than the pressure at which the quench valve 8 should open, for example if the quench valve 8 sticks, or the pressure increase within the cryogen vessel 2 is extremely rapid or severe, the burst disc will rupture and cryogen gas will then escape through a hole left by the burst disc and out of the cryogen vessel 2. This burst disc is typically a declared regulatory pressure relief safety device, provided to rupture in the event of quench valve failure. An embodiment of the invention is depicted in Fig. 3. The existing quench valve 8, as shown in Fig. 2, is modified prior to air shipment, without thereby loosing the valve operability of the quench valve 8. During modifying no part is removed from the quench valve 8. Instead, an accessory device 14 is installed to the quench valve 8, which temporarily raises the cracking pressure of the quench valve 8.

The accessory device 14 comprises a main body 15 forming a cylindrical or box-shaped container 16 with walls 17, with an open front 18 and a back plate 19. The main body 15 is provided with a number of small vent holes, which serve as openings to allow cryogen gas originating from the quench valve 8 to escape from the container 16 in case of a quench. An exemplary position of the vent holes is indicated in Fig. 3 by arrow 20. The main body 15 is fitted to the outer flange 21 of the quench valve 8 by means of removable fastening elements 22, e.g. screws. For this purpose, the front end of the main body 15 is extended to form mounting flanges 23. The back plate 19 is arranged parallel to the valve plate 9 of the quench valve 8, when the accessory devices 14 is mounted. A second spring arrangement 24 comprising four spring-loaded plungers 25 is provided within the container 16. In Fig. 3 only two plungers 25 are illustrated. The plungers 25 bear on the valve plate 9, by this means raising the cracking pressure of the quench valve 8. The second spring arrangement 24 comprises four spring elements 26 in the form of compression springs. The spring elements 26 are employed to act on the plungers 25, in order to n

provide the spring load, as required. The back plate 19 of the main body 15 acts as counter bearing for the spring elements 26. For each spring element 26 an internal guiding rod 27 is provided. All guiding rods 27 are mounted to the back plate 19 of the main body 15.

By means of the accessory device 14, using the second spring arrangement 24, the cracking pressure of quench valve 8 may be raised for example from 6 to 13 PSIG. In case of overpressure during air shipment, the pressure of cryogen gas acting on the inner side 12 of the valve plate 9 has to overcome the force of the second spring arrangement 24 in order to open the quench valve 8. In this event, cryogen gas exits the cryogen vessel 2 and enters the container 16, from which the gas escapes through the number of small vent holes.

When mounted, the main body 15 of the accessory device 14 is adapted to serve as a protective enclosure both for the first and second spring arrangement 11, 24, as well as for the surroundings of the cryogen vessel 2 in case of a rupture of a burst disc.

On arrival in the hospital or any other operational site, the accessory device 14 is removed, bringing the quench valve 8 back into its normal operation mode.

0

Reference numerals

1 cryostat

2 cryogen vessel

3 cryogen

4 central bore

5 access neck

6 vent tube

7 turret outer assembly

8 quench valve

9 valve plate

10 valve seat

11 first spring arrangement

12 inner side

13 outer side

14 accessory device

15 main body

16 container

17 front

18 wall

19 back plate

20 position of vent hole

21 outer flange

22 fastening element

23 mounting flange

24 second spring arrangement

25 plunger

26 spring element

27 guiding rod