Located in the basement of the Physics Building is a new helium recovery facility using state-of-the-art technology to recover approximately 90% of the helium used in the department. Liquid helium is the cryogen with the lowest boiling temperature, making it a ubiquitous tool for achieving temperatures close to absolute zero needed for most modern research programs in physics. However, helium is a non-renewable resource on Earth in the most fundamental sense: it is a byproduct of uranium fission and its supply on earth is fixed by the quantity of radioactive rocks that were produced during the formation of the earth. Once helium is released into the atmosphere, it cannot be recovered, and it is eventually lost to space. A properly designed helium recovery and liquefaction system maintains a stable and reliable supply of liquid helium for low temperature experiments.
The facility was built as part of major renovations in the basement and second floor of the Physics Building that updated condensed matter physics lab space. Support for the facility's continued operations comes from faculty research funding and a generous donation by physics researcher Peter Klavins and chemistry professor Susan Kauzlarich.