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ATC Supply K4 Chillers to the Lab on the RRS Sir David Attenborough

Posted: 16 December 2019

We are proud to have worked with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and have supplied two, K4 recirculating chillers for the laboratory aboard the polar Royal Research Ship (RRS) Sir David Attenborough (SDA).  The 15,000-tonne floating science lab which represents the largest commercial ship built in Britain in 30 years.

The ship was launched by the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in September 2019 at the Cammell Laird Shipyard in an event involving local school children.  And was part of a three-day public celebration which aimed to inspire and inform people about polar science, engineering and technology – and why it matters to everyday life. 

Replacing previous vessels, the RRS Ernest Shackleton and RRS James Clark Ross the ship will study ice sheets, ocean currents and marine life as part of the Cambridge-based British Antarctic Survey.  The role of the Royal Research Ship is to document the polar changes that are happening and to help scientists work out how fast the melting will impinge on lower latitudes.  The research will be carried out into understanding rising sea levels and ice losses at the poles.

Sir David spoke of the “greatest possible honour” that had been bestowed on him.  The ships role he said would be to address the environmental crisis.  “This astonishing ship will find the science with which to deal with the problems that are facing the world today and will increasingly do so tomorrow.”

Specially designed and multi-functional facilities on-board include specialist wet, dry and temperature controlled cold labs for biological analysis and several specialist laboratories for trace metal chemistry, atmospheric and sea water analysis along with water purification systems.

Specialist equipment is used to deal with at sea conditions, standard ATC chillers were adapted for this environment and constructed from titanium to cope with seawater.  This required cooperation between our engineers and the BAS project engineers. Working closely together they developed the specification and ATC engineers integrated the design into the specialist chillers to achieve the desired result.

The K4 chillers are used when transporting live samples North from Antarctica.  The animals live in seawater tanks that need to be refreshed at regular intervals to maintain good conditions. The seawater in the tropics is too warm for Antarctic creatures and needs to be cooled to an appropriate temperature. In the past this new, warm seawater was stored in a ‘refer container’ until it was at the correct temperature. This is an inefficient use of deck space as an extra container is needed just to chill water.

The two new chillers and insulated stillages enable sea water to be chilled to the correct temperature without taking up valuable deck space. The chillers will be located in the science hanger where they will be used to pre-chill 1000l of sea water so that it can be used in the aquarium facilities on board the RRS SDA.

Facilities on the ship include cranes and a helipad, along with the ability to deploy the scientific submersible known as Boaty McBoatface.  

We are proud to have supplied the K4 chillers in partnership with SciQuip, a UK company supplying scientific and laboratory equipment to research, clinical, academic and manufacturing professionals.  It has been a privilege to work on a prestigious £200M project of significant British scientific achievement and research into climate change.

Read more about the polar research ship.

Find out about the K4 chiller range

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Applied Thermal Control Ltd.
39 Hayhill Industrial Estate, Barrow upon Soar, Leicestershire, LE12 8LD.
Telephone: +44 (0) 1530 83 99 98
E-Mail: sales@app-therm.com
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