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How to retrieve something (box, cryovial, etc.) from a liquid nitrogen tank

November 18, 2015

The other day I forgot to put the retaining wire back in rack before I put it back into the liquid nitrogen tank and a bunch of boxes slid out. Total disaster. In the past we had to elevate the thing on a crane and dump out all the liquid nitrogen and spill the tubes with it. I thought there must be a better way so I did a search and found a JOVE article but it required machining some tools. But then the hit below it was the most awesome blog post ever (Thanks Brian Krueger). So off to Bunnings (Home Depot for you Americans) I went to the kid’s section and got a kid sized shovel and gardening hoe. Flowing Brian’s example I removed the handles and replaced them with a longer wooden dowel. I didn’t machine down the size of the shovel or hoe as he recommends. I also stole my son’s fishing net and attached that to another wood dowel incase one of the boxes had opened and I needed to fish out cryovials individually (luckily that was not the case). One big improvement was I got my $100 700 lumen bike light so we could see in and Adam and Ken who were helping me attached it to the end of a wooden dowel with some rubber bands. For some reason they weren’t too keen on keeping their arm in the dewar. You do have to wait a few minutes for the haze to disappear but once it does we had a crystal clear view of what was in there. We haven’t had to use the fishing net tool yet but I would imagine it would be pretty easy to fish out any tubes.

Mostly I just want to thank Brian. Your Nobel Prize worthy blog post saved me big time.

P.S. I just got the opportunity to test out the tools again. I’m not sure how I could make the same mistake just a couple days later. But it seems it’s so easy to fish boxes out now that we have the tools next to the dewar, there’s no reason to put the retaining rod back in the rack. Well not exactly. But again, Brian you’ve now saved me twice in a  week. Thanks again.

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