300 Below, Inc. was featured in the February 1996 issue of the NTPA Puller.
Cryogenics: The newest secret for performance and durability?
For those who don’t know what Cryogenics means, just think “cold”. The word “Cryogenics” is derived from two Greek words, (you already knew this sounded Greek, right) “kryos”, which means cold or freezing, and “genes”, meaning born or produced. “Deep” cryogenics is anything below -300 degrees Fahrenheit (like I said, think cold). The process has created many new applications in ultra-cold temperature physics. It is found that cryogenic treatment to metal tools and machine parts can increase their life by some 200%-400%. Just recently this process has been applied to engine parts and components.
Cryogenics has been around for 30 years, but it wasn’t until the advent of computers and computer regulated controls, that the process became viable. Five years ago, Pete Paulin, president of 300 Below, refined the process developed by Ed Busch, a long-time heat treater from Michigan. Paulin mated a 386 based computer to a processor and wrote a computer program to precisely control the process.
Although most might think this is an entirely different process than heat treating, it’s not. In heat treating, the benefit to the part being treated, comes during the cooling stage. Cryogenics, is just an extension of this process.
In fact, heat treating is actually a misnomer. It should be called cold treating. Cryogenic treating works only on materials that have already been heat treated.
If you’ve been around motorsports for any length of time, you know this idea isn’t new. We all know someone who has tried to cover a part with dry ice, or put it in his wife’s freezer or oven in an attempt to find an edge. Liquid nitrogen has even been tried by some. Dropping a part into a vat of liquid nitrogen is like dropping an ice cube into a cup of hot water, it cracks front the stress points inside the cube.
How does the process work? The part or parts are placed into a processor and then slowly cooled to -317°F. It is held at that temperature for 20-60 hours depending on the part and material. It is then slowly raised to
+375°F, then allowed to slowly cool to room temperature.
Although not apparent to the naked eye, the changes to the part are significant. First, it creates a much denser molecular structure. The result is a larger contact surface area that decreases friction and wear. Second, it relieves internal stress, a result’ from manufacturing, eliminating potential failure points in the part. And contrary to popular belief, this process actually decreases brittleness when done properly.
Okay, I’ve told you all the scientific mumbo-jumbo about cryogenic treatment, but what does it mean for the competitor. Well, how about decreased wear on your treated parts.
Butch Hixson, a well-known engine builder in Illinois, tested the process during the 1994 racing season. “We cryogenically treated a small block Chevrolet in 1994. Which was run at
8000-8500 RPM for the entire season with no breakage,” reported the 1991 and ’92 Engine Builder of the Year. “Normal cylinder wear would be expected to be at 2-3 thousandths. The motor showed less than 1/4 of one thousandth of wear. No breakage all season. In fact we’ve never broken a cryogenically treated part.”
“As a matter of course, we generally go through the motors after 1000-1200 laps, when we tore this engine down at that point the bearings were almost perfect and the crank looked like the day I installed it new.”
At the end of the season Hixson removed all the parts and measured everything. Most of the parts showed very little wear, much less than he would have expected.
Precision Engineered Engines in Bloomington, Ill. found that cryo-treated Chevy heads are not prone to cracking even at +240°F. Untreated heads slurry cracking when run at these temperatures.
Another advantage is increased horsepower and torque. Fox Valley Kart Shop in Lafayette, Ind. dyno tested both a cryo-treated and non-treated Yamaha KT-100 2-cycle racing engine. They found a significant gain in the cryogenically treated engine in both horsepower and torque.
Currently, cryogenic treatment is being tested by several Winston Cup and Indy Car teams and with excellent results.
Deep Cryogenic Processing is proven to decrease wear and breakage, increase reliability, and provide improved performance. It works on all metal parts of your engine and can significantly reduce your racing costs.