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DARPA demos power-packed microscale vacuum pumps

Posted: 07 Jun 2013 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:vacuum micropumps? sensors? chip-scale atomic clocks?

A team at MIT has also developed three types of microscale gas pumps. Figure 2 shows a two-stage rough pump with curved surfaces that displace large volumes of gas and uses two valves to limit backpressure. This novel pump was created by focusing on efficiency to create a compression ratio of 4.6 per stagethe highest recorded value at this scale.

Honeywell International Inc. demonstrated a microfabricated, turbomolecular pump that operates in the mid-vacuum and high-vacuum range. The pump design is analogous to a turbine, but in reverse. The blades on the rotor are angled and push gas outward as they spin, creating a vacuum in the centre. Each of the blades on the fan is about half the size of the period at the end of this sentence.

"There have never been ionic or mechanical gas pumps at the microscale before," said Shkel. "The CSVMP programme has demonstrated both and more. The smallest commercially available pumps are the size of a deck of cards, which dwarf the vacuum electronics and sensors we want to attach our pumps to. These pumps are not only 300 times smaller than off-the-shelf pumps and 20 times smaller than custom-built pumps, but they also consume approximately 10 times less power to evacuate from atmospheric pressure to milliTorr pressures."

Microfabricated, turbomolecular pump

Figure 3: Honeywell's pump takes from the design of a turbine but in reverse.

Initially, CSVMP focused on applications with small mass spectrometry gas analysers, which would enable better chemical and biological pathogen detection. As the programme continued to develop smaller and more powerful pumps that could create vacuums at different scales, other applications became apparent.

"These microscale gas pumps may ultimately be required for laser-cooled atomic clocks, accelerometers and gyroscopes," said Shkel. "Laser cooling systems require vacuums, but are often significantly smaller than the pumps themselves. It is possible that these pumps will help enable smaller, more accurate atomic clocks, like those currently being developed as part of the DARPA Integrated Micro Primary Atomic Clock Technology (IMPACT) effort or vacuum electronics being developed as part of the programme."


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