Vacuum pump

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A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial vacuum. The vacuum pump was invented in 1650 by Otto von Guericke.



Pumps can be broadly categorized according to three techniques:[1]

  • Positive displacement pumps use a mechanism to repeatedly expand a cavity, allow gases to flow in from the chamber, seal off the cavity, and exhaust it to the atmosphere.
  • Momentum transfer pumps, also called molecular pumps, use high speed jets of dense fluid or high speed rotating blades to knock gas molecules out of the chamber.
  • Entrapment pumps capture gases in a solid or adsorbed state. This includes cryopumps, getters, and ion pumps.

Positive displacement pumps are the most effective for low vacuums. Momentum transfer pumps in conjunction with one or two positive displacement pumps are the most common configuration used to achieve high vacuums. In this configuration the positive displacement pump serves two purposes. First it obtains a rough vacuum in the vessel being evacuated before the momentum transfer pump can be used to obtain the high vacuum, as momentum transfer pumps cannot start pumping at atmospheric pressures. Second the positive displacement pump backs up the momentum transfer pump by evacuating to low vacuum the accumulation of displaced molecules in the high vacuum pump. Entrapment pumps can be added to reach ultrahigh vacuums, but they require periodic regeneration of the surfaces that trap air molecules or ions. Due to this requirement their available operational time can be unacceptably short in low and high vacuums, thus limiting their use to ultrahigh vacuums. Pumps also differ in details like manufacturing tolerances, sealing material, pressure, flow, admission or no admission of oil vapor, service intervals, reliability, tolerance to dust, tolerance to chemicals, tolerance to liquids and vibration.

Performance measures

  • Pumping speed refers to the volume flow rate of a pump at its inlet, often measured in volume per unit of time. Momentum transfer and entrapment pumps are more effective on some gases than others, so the pumping rate can be different for each of the gases being pumped, and the average volume flow rate of the pump will vary depending on the chemical composition of the gases remaining in the chamber.
  • Throughput refers to the pumping speed multiplied by the gas pressure at the inlet, and is measured in units of pressure¬∑volume/unit time. At a constant temperature, throughput is proportional to the number of molecules being pumped per unit time, and therefore to the mass flow rate of the pump. When discussing a leak in the system or backstreaming through the pump, throughput refers to the volume leak rate multiplied by the pressure at the vacuum side of the leak, so the leak throughput can be compared to the pump throughput.

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