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Context

You know those thing called blood banks, well they have some for specifically cells, which are called cell banks. Essentially they preserve the cells and stop their growth for later use. Now all this is done with electricity, but in my stories setting electricity cannot be used to accomplish this. But there is one power source that is available: steam.

Question

How could steam power be used instead of electricity to operate a stem cell bank (any room size, any insulation)?

Requirements

  • needs to freeze the cells at a rate of -1 to -3 degrees Celsius per minute
  • sustain temperatures of -196 degrees Celsius
  • thaw out the cells at a temperature of 37 °C
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  • $\begingroup$ How big is the room that needs to be frozen and what kind of insulation is available? Also, what do you mean by a 'rate of -1 to -3 degrees C?" $\endgroup$
    – bendl
    May 23, 2018 at 3:05
  • $\begingroup$ Any size is fine and basically any insulation we have now $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 23, 2018 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ And the rate? [characters needed] $\endgroup$
    – bendl
    May 23, 2018 at 3:09
  • $\begingroup$ @bendl per minute $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 23, 2018 at 3:13
  • $\begingroup$ @L.Dutch Maybe there are no magnets in his world? or no power grid? and no electricity? $\endgroup$
    – Shadowzee
    May 23, 2018 at 6:16

2 Answers 2

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Run the compressor with a steam turbine.

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  • $\begingroup$ well that's simple $\endgroup$
    – Amoeba
    May 23, 2018 at 3:08
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TCAT put up the answer I was planning before I did the math, but it looks like a resounding yes, assuming you've got modern insulation. It only takes 0.11 horsepower to cool 1 cubic meter of dry air 3 degrees Celcius. The wikipedia page on industrial age steam engines gives an average of 30 horsepower for steam engines during the time, meaning you can can cool about 30 cubic meters of air at the proper rate with a run of the mill steam engine. The same page also mentioned very large engines creating up to 1400 horsepower, so really the sky is the limit. Just remember you're not going to get 100% efficiency, so give yourself some wiggle room if you have to put a number on it.

I'm glossing over heat loss through the walls, which could be considerable, and to get a compressor to bring the heat down to that low a temperature will be an astonishing achievement, but it absolutely theoretically possible.

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