X-Message-Number: 2013
Date: Tue, 23 Mar 93 13:56:57 CST
From: Brian Wowk <>
Subject: CRYONICS Room Access

        What mental picture do you have of how cryonics patients and 
service personnel enter a -130'C Cold Room?  Perhaps a huge door on the 
side of the room (with 1 meter thick foam insulation) swings open like a 
bank vault, spewing ice fog everywhere, giving everyone outside the room 
a chill while patients inside get a blast of warmth.  Alternatively, our 
cryosuited workers with patients on gurneys enter an airlock half as big 
as the room itself.  One inside the room, the workers will walk along 
wasted space that could be used for patients were it not that workers 
need a place to walk.  Of course, if any workers (not even visible to 
personnel outside) get into trouble they will have to frantically run 
back to the airlock and fight their way through two doors on their way 
out.  This might even have to be done by one worker carrying the other
on his back! 

        What's wrong with this picture?  It was the one I had for a long 
time, and it was bothering me a lot.  Romping around in a cryosuit inside 
a sealed nitrogen-filled Cold Room is a lot like cave diving.  If you 
are suddenly unable to breath, there is no surface to swim to.  Even 
with state-of-the-art failsafe dual independent air supplies (which are 
mandatory for cave diving) and a diving buddy, cave divers still die in 
droves every year.  In fact, in many respects cryosuit work is worse 
than cave diving.  Since the human urge to breathe is created by CO2 
buildup, not oxygen deficiency, nitrogen asphyxiation (and associated 
loss of consciousness) occurs without any warning.  Finally, cave divers 
don't have to worry about their cave being shut down by the government 
after someone dies in it.

        According to Hugh Hixon at Alcor, Keith Henson has proposed 
entering a Cold Room from the *top* rather than the sides.  This is an 
eminently sensible idea, and it addresses a host of safety, logistics, 
efficiency, and engineering concerns.

        I propose building a 5m x 5m room (3m high) with a wide open 
ceiling, and *no doors*.  Put opposed angle iron beams (or inverted T 
beams) across the top at 1 meter intervals to hold up 1 meter cubes of 
Trymer foam insulation.  (The walls and floor of the room are also 
surrounded by 1 meter Trymer).  You divide up your room into 25 cells 
that are 1 meter square by 3 meters high, each of which could easily 
hold two insulated patients (and plenty of ethyl chloride pouches).  
Allocate four of five cells in the center to hold a 2000 liter LN2 
reservoir (large hot water tank?) and you are left with 20 cells able to 
hold 40 patients.  Notice you do not need any walking space for men in 

        To access a room cell you simply hoist up, and move aside, the 1 
meter foam cube above it (weighing about 100 lbs).  (You would probably 
leave a 1 inch clearance between cubes, impairing room efficiency only 
slightly.  Wool or something could be packed in the gaps for added 
insulation.)  Patients could be raised or lowered into cells without any 
need for cryosuit work.  If our present system can work without men
swimming in LN2, this system can work without cryosuits.

        Is there any need for cryosuits at all?  Extraordinary 
maintenance tasks might require cryosuit work.  Cryosuits would be useful 
for adjusting/fixing fans or troubleshooting resevoir problems.  The 
worker would be lowered in by hoist, and remain attached to the cable at 
all times.  Remotely monitor blood oxygen saturation with a pulse 
oximeter, and at the first sign of any trouble you lift the worker out.  
(By the way, Mike, do you own a pulse oximeter?  Perhaps you should use 
it as a safety device in your cryosuit experiments.)     

        Since patients will be packed so densely in this design, an 
active air circulation system is almost certainly necessary.  I 
therefore withdraw my earlier disparagement of fans, and suggest we put 
a few thousand dollars into several independent fans driven by cryogenic 
rated electric motors.  The extra LN2 boiloff will be worth it if we can 
pack this many patients int.

        Now the economics.  The insulation for this room will cost 
$35,000.  If we allow $65,000 (a pessimistic guess) for other materials 
and labor we will have a capital cost of $100,000 for a 40 patient 
storage system.  Amortizing at 20% (because Alcor outgrows new buildings 
quickly) we will still have an annual operating cost of only $1000 per 
patient.  (This assumes LN2 use of 200 liters per day, 30% beyond the 
theoretical 150 liters per day.)  The only catch to all this is that for 
the first few years we will be paying for patients not yet filling the 

        Any thoughts out there?  Should we do this?  I think we should, 
even if we offer it as an option with higher minimums.  -130'C is 
clearly the future of cryonics.  Even CI is looking at it, and may 
implement it in some form in their new building.  If we don't commit 
floor space in our anticipated new building for it, when will we ever do 

        Alcor has a choice between taking initiative and continuing to 
be at the forefront of cryonics, or arguing why nanotechnology can fix 
cracking while other organizations offer crack-free storage.  I do not 
believe the latter is Alcor's style, at least not the Alcor I joined.  
If I wanted cryonics service based on what I thought nanotechnology 
could *ultimately* fix, I would have joined CI not Alcor.  Now, 
paradoxically, it may soon be CI who  offers better storage!  Let's get 
with it!
                                                --- Brian Wowk

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