Make Your Own LN2 At Home (24/7 LN2 Cooler Imminent)

1 liter a day ... that means I only have to wait 180 days to fill my 180L dewar. Maybe if the build is bigger, the cost of $1.15/liter can even drop a bit.

You can generate liquid nitrogen (LN2) in the comfort of your own home with some parts found on eBay. I have proven that this is possible by purchasing surplus equipment and assembling it as described in this post. I spent over a year searching eBay, so these parts are not really easy to find, but the total bill for the whole system was under $500. The device consumes about 300 to 400 watts of electricity and needs no consumables (just atmospheric air). The LN2 is produced at a net rate of about 1 liter per day. This comes out to 9.6 kWh/liter or $1.15/liter, which is substantially cheaper than having the local welding store fill up a thermos (granted the thermos must be cooled as it is filled, thus requiring more than its capacity of LN2).

The most important part of this system is the cryocooler. This is a device that employs a thermodynamic gas cycle to pump heat through a very high temperature gradient. Many of these devices are self-contained and require only an electrical input to start pumping heat. The crycooler that I used was removed from a surplus RF filter which used the cryogenic temperatures to maintain a superconducting RF filter. The crycooler itself has been fairly well documented.

I converted the cryocooler to be water-cooled on the hot end and attached a heatsink to its cold end. In operation, the cold end with the heatsink is inserted into the top of a large dewar. Eventually, the interior of the dewar gets so cold that the air will condense into a liquid and drip down to the bottom. The second key part of this system is the nitrogen separation membrane. The is a device that accepts normal air, and produces relatively pure nitrogen. The waste products (mostly H2O, O2 and CO2) are vented into the air.

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