Cryogenic Tempering

The term “cryogenic tempering” is used a lot in relationship to cryogenic processing. It is used incorrectly.

According to Metals Handbook, published by ASM, tempering is,

“..reheating hardened steel to some temperature below the eutectoid temperature to decrease hardness and/or increase toughness.”

Tempering used to mean hardening in archaic English, hence the persistence of phrases like “fine tempered steel” in advertising. Such a phrase is virtually meaningless, as any hardened steel would be tempered anyway. We feel it is confusing and inaccurate to use the word “Tempering” when referring to cryogenic processing.

Since the process rarely makes materials significantly harder (if it does, there was something very wrong with the heat treat), the term “Cryogenic Hardening” is also confusing, inaccurate, and does not convey the full impact of what cryogenic processing can do.

In the same light, the term “stress relieving” also indicates a specific process, and the use of cryogenics covers much more than stress relieving. As far as calling it “Deep Cryogenic Treatment”, anyone who is familiar with cryogenic science will know that -300ºF is not very deep into the cryogenic range, which starts at -244ºF according to the Cryogenic Society of America. Besides that, we are currently experimenting with temperatures down to -450ºF, which is deep cryogenics, as it is very close to absolute zero.

Is it nit picking to criticize what people call the process? Maybe it is, but fancy sounding names often confuse the issue as to what the process does. Our preference is to call the process “Cryogenic Treatment” or “Cryogenic Processing”. The Cryogenic Processing Sub-Committee of the ASM has approved both “Cryogenic Processing” and “Cryogenic Treatment”. That’s good enough for us.

One term that does not apply to what we do is Cryonics. The word Cryonics refers to the process of freezing living tissue with the intention of bringing it back to life in the future.

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