How it began
I first met with Dr. Simon Chase and Dr. Lee Kenny from Chase Research Cryogenics in February 2020 — not long before the first lockdown. It was a Monday afternoon, and as I drove down to their facilities, in an industrial park in Sheffield, I was struck by the idea that in this building are people selling products to NASA Jet Propulsion Lab.
I didn’t know all that they did at that point — and to some degree I still can’t get to grips with it. I’ve worked with a few companies in the cryogenics industry, but this was an entirely different realm. I was about to learn that what I thought was cold, isn’t really that cold at all — this is when I was made aware of the sub-Kelvin temperature range. Both Simon and Lee are incredibly well-regarded within the industry and scientific community; for 27 years, the company’s reputation and sales had come primarily through word-of-mouth — and it had done them well. They have designed and manufactured sub-Kelvin cryocoolers and heat switches for the likes of NASA, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Fermilab, Princeton University, Royal Observatory Edinburgh — and countless more research institutes and universities around the world.
That first meeting really blew my mind. Simon was referencing all these massive concepts around quantum mechanics, the Universe, Helium-3 atoms. When he told me they had a pet tardigrade in the lab, I unwittingly asked him what breed of dog it was. I was so impressed and equally, couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that they were doing this level of work in Neepsend, Sheffield with customers like NASA.