Case Studies

Vacuum Leak Detector Software

Vacuum Leak Detector for Helium Cooling System

Posted in Embedded Development & Programming, Energy and Utilities, Infrastructure, LabVIEW, Test & Measurement Automation


The client maintains and operates a large piece of machinery that requires a coolant system that utilizes liquid helium. In order to fix and maintain the system, technology needed to be developed to discover and locate leaks. Leaks needed to be fixed as quickly as possible in order to avoid machine downtime.

The system consisted of interfacing several mobile leak detection carts into a single operator interface. This allowed for controlled testing of leaks and the ability to determine leak location based on simultaneous data display. All data was logged for later review and traceability.

cRIO 9014 Leak Detector

cRIO 9014 Leak Detector

Helium Refrigerant Used in System

Helium Refrigerant Used in System


The customer's situation involved a very large piece of equipment that was cooled to extreme temperatures using liquid helium. This equipment was accessed via underground tunnels and all equipment needed to be transported via motorized vehicle.

To manage the helium system, cart-sized leak detectors would be place near the equipment and turned on. Up to 16 such carts could be placed around an arc over a total distance of nearly 1000 feet. The signals from these detectors needed to be synchronized in order to determine leak propagation. 

System uptime was of paramount importance. When a leak occurred, technicians would be deployed immediately and often worked shifts longer than 24 hours until the system was brought back online. The system is also taken down occasionally for preventative maintenance and this time must be used as efficiently as possible.

Often, the system could run perfectly for a year before a leak occurred. This meant that the detection hardware and software had to be incredibly reliable and ready to go at a moments notice. 

DMC provided a combined hardware and software solution. We leveraged our excellent background in LabVIEW development combined with our Microsoft expertise to develop a system that used a LabVIEW-based viewer on Windows XP Embedded hardware to meet our stringent uptime and reliability requirements. The actual data acquisition was achieved using a National Instruments cRIO running a realtime operating system. All data is saved to TDMS format which allows easy post-processing and management, as well as the ability for data to be analyzed in Microsoft Excel. The TDMS format also kept file sizes small for long data acquisition runs.

The de-coupling of the viewer and the acquisition platform allows for future expandability. In future implementations the acquisition unit could be placed remotely and controlled via a network connection. The choice of XP Embedded also means the viewer application was compatible with a standard Windows installation saving the cost of programming separate applications for live viewing and for reviewing past tests. 

Learn more about DMC's expertise in LabVIew programming for real-time and FPGA.

Customer Benefits

This system completely replaced an older implementation. The selection of hardware provided much higher reliability, and more precise data acquisition. The software allowed the customer to acquire data for much longer periods (well over 48 hours) and provided greater stability. New features were also added that reduced troubleshooting time and allowed for faster preventative maintenance.


  • LabVIEW
  • LabVIEW Real-time
  • National Instruments cRIO-9014
  • Windows XP Embedded