My biology masters program has turned into explorations of applications of the fiber arts in cryobiology. I've sewn more in this quarter than in the previous decade. Every time we have an idea for a new technology, I end up sewing something for it. Now it's time to bust out the other fiber arts knowledge, though.
We need to connect teflon to teflon. The internet tells me that this is, in fact, impossible without a drill and a bolt. That would be all fine and dandy if 1) I weren't trying to fill the container with liquid nitrogen and 2) metal wasn't such a good conductor of heat into my intentionally cold system. Now the plan is to lash the two teflon containers together.
While the final tech needs to be on the hush-hush, I did crowd source an idea. What fiber would work best at cold temperatures? What would be least brittle? Would protein, cellulose, or carbon-based polymer be better? Insulating power is one thing, but I need something that can take the stress of constant tension without giving up (or being stupid, conductive metal. grrr.)
So, over the next few weeks (days?) I will be conducting an experiment and posting the methods, results, and discussion in pieces here. I doubt any journal will actually care about this, but if I get nifty results we may even push for publication (with acknowledgements for the Ravelry.com community)
Here's the preliminary plan:
Knit swatches--15 sts x 20 rows, 3 per fiber composition, tight but still appropriate gauge for all yarns using size 0 needles. I'm knitting the swatches rather than crocheting/weaving/knotting because I want to see the real effects of tension in a system that will fall apart when something goes wrong. If you cut a strand in any of the other options, the world doesn't go to Hell in a hand basket. The final project will be knotted.
Fibers--Wool, Alpaca, Superwash/nylon, Merino/Silk, Tencel, Cotton, Sugar Cane, Acrylic, Fishing Line (and whatever else strikes my fancy at the hardware store). I'll stash-dive again tonight and see if I can come up with anything else. I think I have some nylon, I'd like to try more than just Acrylic for polymers. I will keep track of plies.
Cool--Plunge into liquid nitrogen with a weight (yet to be determined) attached mid swatch. Swatches will be chilled for at least 5 minutes or until they break. Time of break will be monitored with a stopwatch. Swatches which do not break will be subjected to increasing weights until I find their stress tolerance.
Measure--At least 1 swatch per group will have a T-type thermocouple welded into the top row of the knitting, taking readings (at least) once per second. This will be analyzed unweighted, several times per fiber type. I will analyze rate of temperature change at the top of the swatch over all fabric types to see if there is a fiber that better insulates itself (the animals fibers have an advantage here, but I'm interested to see the other fibers performance in comparison.)
The best fiber for the job will be the strongest, least conductive fiber.
Wish me luck.