top of page

About Us

Hydrogen, as an energy carrier will play a key role in enabling a clean, secure and affordable energy future. Decarbonization presents a significant opportunity for the United States to leverage the knowledge, capability, infrastructure, and supply chains of the existing LNG industry combined with those of the renewable energy industry to establish a strong and viable hydrogen economy.

Hydrogen poses a great challenge as an alternative fuel. There are a number of technical, economic, infrastructure and societal issues that must be overcome before this fuel could be implemented on a large scale. 

The Hydrogen Technology and Energy Center (HyTEC) is a multidisciplinary research hub with a focus to fill existing knowledge gaps, develop new technologies, train students and researchers in technologies relevant to hydrogen energy field. The center acts as an attractor to draw additional MIT researchers and expertise into the hydrogen energy field. 

Our long-term research goals have grown from the experience and knowledge gained by decades-long research, innovation, and development through MIT's Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory (CEL), led by Professor John Brisson, and the Plasma Science and Fusion Center, led by Prof. Dennis Whyte.

History: 80 years of Cryogenic Research at MIT

HyTEC builds on over 80 years of cryogenic science and engineering at MIT. The Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory was first established by Prof. Samuel Collins in the 1940s and further developed by Prof. Joseph Smith and his students. Today the CEL group continues developing cutting-edge cryogenic technologies with applications in energy, space, medicine, and defense.

The first practical helium liquefier was developed by Prof. Samuel Collins at MIT. Collins' innovation was to achieve helium liquefaction with mechanical expansion. The images below show early liquefiers built in 1940.

Hydrogen and helium liquefyer

Collins continued to evolve his designs. He completed a new design in 1948 (shown in the images below) for a large hydrogen liquefier that ultimately was used only to liquefy helium. This machine was used for early tests of mechanical properties of materials at helium temperatures. In 1956, an improved version of the liquefier was completed with a single shaft running three expanders with eccentrics and cams that operate walking beams that pull the flexible piston rod and valve actuating tension rods.

Liquid hydrogen production, cryocooler

After retiring from MIT, Collins moved to ADL Inc., where he continued to refine helium liquefiers, utilizing displacer-piston expanders. Among the several machines that he designed and built were the Model 2000 and the Model 1400. The Model 1400 was a major product line for CTI, and is still being built by a successor company. One of the early model 2000 liquefiers was purchased and installed in the MIT Laboratory in 1969. The CEL continues to liquefy helium and provide it to the MIT community using a new commercial helium plant whose technology is derived from the work done by Collins and his students.

Joseph L. Smith Jr.  "50 years of helium liquefaction at the MIT Cryogenic Engineering Laboratory" (2002)

bottom of page