Laboratory vacuum pumps are one of the most ubiquitous pieces of laboratory equipment, and also one of the most difficult to choose. Vacuum pumps come in many different designs with an array of features, and it is important to carefully consider the applications for which the pump will be used before selecting a particular model.
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Use the following decision tree to help narrow your equipment selection.
What level of vacuum do you require?
Standard vacuum covers a wide range of pressures from roughly 200 mbar to 10
-3 mbar. Such systems are common for a wide range of laboratory applications. Consider the absolute vacuum required for your application when selecting. What type of primary vacuum pump do you require?
These are the traditional vacuum pump are widely used. However, they are only required for application where a greater vacuum is required.
These are an excellent alternative to rotary vane pumps where oil-free pumping is desirable. These pumps are suitable for noncorrosive liquids and deliver low ultimate pressure at high speed.
Diaphragm pumps are appropriate for most laboratory applications. They are easy to maintain and, if pumps with chemical-resistant diaphragms and valves are selected, may be used for corrosive solvents without the use of a cold trap.
Do you require a suction or evaporation vacuum?
Vacuum depths appropriate for suction will be typically above 50 mbar (38Torr) and are suitable for filtration and aspiration techniques.
Evaporative applications typically require vacuum as low as 1 mbar (0.7 Torr) in order to evaporate or distill solvents at or near room temperature.
High and Ultra-High Vacuum
High and ultra-high vacuum is characterized by pressures between 10
-3 to 10 -9 mbar. It is used for specific applications including atomic physics, field emission microscopy, and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy among others. It is recommended that these systems have a backing pump. What type of high vacuum pump do you require?
Diffusion pumps use a high speed jet of vapor to direct gas molecules in the pump throat down into the bottom of the pump and out the exhaust. The diffusion pump is widely used in both industrial and research applications. Most modern diffusion pumps use silicone oil or polyphenyl ethers as the working fluid.
An ion pump (also referred to as a sputter ion pump) is a type of vacuum pump capable of reaching pressures as low as 10−11 mbar under ideal conditions. An ion pump ionizes gas within the vessel it is attached to and employs a strong electrical potential, typically 3kV to 7kV, which allows the ions to accelerate into, and be captured by, a solid electrode and its residue.
These pumps work on the principle that gas molecules can be given momentum in a desired direction by repeated collision with a moving solid surface. In a turbomolecular pump, a rapidly spinning turbine rotor 'hits' gas molecules from the inlet of the pump towards the exhaust in order to create or maintain a vacuum.