Pete Knudsen

Senior Cryogenic Process Engineer


  • Joined the laboratory in August 2016
  • Cryogenic engineering
  • Contact information
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Education and training

  • BS, Mechanical Engineering, Colorado State University, 1990
  • MS, Mechanical Engineering, Fluid and Thermal Sciences, Old Dominion University, 2008
  • PhD, Mechanical Engineering, Fluid and Thermal Sciences, Old Dominion University, 2016


Cryogenic systems, used to cool superconducting devices
close to a temperature of absolute zero, are complex
thermal-hydraulic process systems comprised of many
sub-systems and are very energy intensive by nature,
requiring at least three orders of magnitude higher
input power for the same cooling. These systems are
highly specialized and often unique. The process cycles
are complex, the sub-systems must operate in concert,
and designs are inherently thermally and mechanically
coupled and necessitate consideration of non-constant
and non-ideal fluid behavior. The demands on the process
equipment with respect to efficiency and reliability over
the required operating temperature range are quite
different than in commercial industry. These factors
provide many opportunities for applied research and


My career began differently than a typical university
faculty, starting as a Space Shuttle systems engineer,
then moving on toward diverse system and equipment
designs; such as multi-million dollar launch vehicle ground
support fluid systems, the process design of large helium
cryogenic refrigeration systems, and specialized test
equipment such as a 2 kelvin helium heat exchanger. It is
this background, typical in our group, which emphasizes
both our motivation for theoretical and applied research
to practical applications.

How students can contribute as part of my research team

We offer opportunities both separately and combined for
theoretical and hands-on-hardware research on thermalhydraulic
process equipment and systems. Our focus is well
rounded, beginning with concept modeling and fundamental
studies, followed by engineering design and analysis,
then oversight of fabrication and installation, and finally,
testing. Although all of these are difficult to squeeze into a
dissertation or thesis, there is the opportunity for exposure
to many of these aspects. Our goal is the development of
new and improved cryogenic processes and equipment,
which offer better efficiency, reliability, and flexibility.

Scientific publications