Ultra high vacuum
Ultra-high vacuum is the vacuum
In everyday usage, vacuum is a volume of space that is essentially empty of matter, such that its gaseous pressure is much less than atmospheric pressure. The word comes from the Latin term for "empty". A perfect vacuum would be one with no particles in it at all, which is impossible to achieve in...

 regime characterised by pressure
Pressure is the force per unit area applied in a direction perpendicular to the surface of an object. Gauge pressure is the pressure relative to the local atmospheric or ambient pressure.- Definition :...

s lower than about 10−7 pascal
Pascal (unit)
The pascal is the SI derived unit of pressure, internal pressure, stress, Young's modulus and tensile strength, named after the French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and philosopher Blaise Pascal. It is a measure of force per unit area, defined as one newton per square metre...

 or 100 nanopascals (10−9 m
Milli is a prefix in the metric system denoting a factor of one thousandth . Adopted in 1795, the prefix comes from the Latin mille, meaning one thousand ....

Bar (unit)
The bar is a unit of pressure equal to 100 kilopascals, and roughly equal to the atmospheric pressure on Earth at sea level. Other units derived from the bar are the megabar , kilobar , decibar , centibar , and millibar...

, ~10−9 torr
The torr is a non-SI unit of pressure with the ratio of 760 to 1 standard atmosphere, chosen to be roughly equal to the fluid pressure exerted by a millimetre of mercury, i.e., a pressure of 1 torr is approximately equal to 1 mmHg...

). UHV requires the use of unusual materials in construction and by heating the entire system to 180°C for several hours ("baking") to remove water and other trace gases which adsorb on the surfaces of the chamber. At these low pressures the mean free path
Mean free path
In physics, the mean free path is the average distance covered by a moving particle between successive impacts which modify its direction or energy or other particle properties.-Derivation:...

 of a gas molecule is approximately 40 km, so gas molecules will collide with the chamber walls many times before colliding with each other. Almost all interactions therefore take place on various surfaces in the chamber.

Concepts involved

  • Sorption
    Sorption refers to the action of absorption* Absorption is the incorporation of a substance in one state into another of a different state ....

     of gases
  • Kinetic theory
    Kinetic theory
    The kinetic theory of gases describes a gas as a large number of small particles , all of which are in constant, random motion. The rapidly moving particles constantly collide with each other and with the walls of the container...

     of gases
  • Gas transport and pumping
  • Vacuum pump
    Vacuum pump
    A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial vacuum. The first vacuum pump was invented in 1650 by Otto von Guericke.- Types :Pumps can be broadly categorized according to three techniques:...

    s and systems
  • Vapour pressure

Material limitations

Materials which are not allowed due to high vapour pressure:
  • majority of organic compounds cannot be used:
    • plastics other than teflon and PEEK
      Polyether ether ketone is a colourless organic polymer thermoplastic used in engineering applications.-Synthesis:PEEK polymers are obtained by step-growth polymerization by the dialkylation of bisphenolate salts. Typical is the reaction of 4,4'-difluorobenzophenone with the disodium salt of...

      : gasket
      thumb|sright|250px|Some seals and gaskets1. [[o-ring]]2. fiber [[Washer |washer]]3. paper gaskets4. [[cylinder head]] [[head gasket|gasket]]...

      s are made of copper, and are single-use; plastics in other uses are replaced with ceramics or metals
    • glue
      This is a list of various types of glue. Historically, the term "glue" only referred to protein colloids prepared from animal flesh. The meaning has been extended to refer to any fluid adhesive....

      s: special glues for high vacuum must be used
  • common steel
    Steel is an alloy that consists mostly of iron and has a carbon content between 0.2% and 2.1% by weight, depending on the grade. Carbon is the most common alloying material for iron, but various other alloying elements are used, such as manganese, chromium, vanadium, and tungsten...

    : due to oxidizing, which greatly increases adsorption area, only stainless steel
    Stainless steel
    In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

     is used
  • lead
    Lead is a main-group element in the carbon group with the symbol Pb and atomic number 82. Lead is a soft, malleable poor metal. It is also counted as one of the heavy metals. Metallic lead has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut, but it soon tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed...

    : soldering is performed using lead-free solder
  • indium
    Indium is a chemical element with the symbol In and atomic number 49. This rare, very soft, malleable and easily fusible post-transition metal is chemically similar to gallium and thallium, and shows the intermediate properties between these two...

    : Indium is commonly used as a deformable gasket material for vacuum seals, especially in cryogenic apparatus, but its low melting point prevents use in baked systems.
  • zinc
    Zinc , or spelter , is a metallic chemical element; it has the symbol Zn and atomic number 30. It is the first element in group 12 of the periodic table. Zinc is, in some respects, chemically similar to magnesium, because its ion is of similar size and its only common oxidation state is +2...

    , cadmium
    Cadmium is a chemical element with the symbol Cd and atomic number 48. This soft, bluish-white metal is chemically similar to the two other stable metals in group 12, zinc and mercury. Similar to zinc, it prefers oxidation state +2 in most of its compounds and similar to mercury it shows a low...

    : High vapor pressures during system bake-out.

Technical limitations:
  • screws: threads have a high surface area and tend to "trap" gases, therefore are avoided
  • welding
    Welding is a fabrication or sculptural process that joins materials, usually metals or thermoplastics, by causing coalescence. This is often done by melting the workpieces and adding a filler material to form a pool of molten material that cools to become a strong joint, with pressure sometimes...

    : standard welding cannot be used due to high surface area and introduction of gas chambers, which would collect gas at atmospheric pressure, and release it slowly during evacuation (removal of gas).

Typical uses for ultra-high vacuum

Ultra-high vacuum is necessary for many surface analytic techniques such as:
  • X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
    X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy
    X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy is a quantitative spectroscopic technique that measures the elemental composition, empirical formula, chemical state and electronic state of the elements that exist within a material...

  • Auger electron spectroscopy
    Auger electron spectroscopy
    Auger electron spectroscopy is a common analytical technique used specifically in the study of surfaces and, more generally, in the area of materials science...

  • Secondary ion mass spectrometry
    Secondary ion mass spectrometry
    Secondary ion mass spectrometry is a technique used in materials science and surface science to analyze the composition of solid surfaces and thin films by sputtering the surface of the specimen with a focused primary ion beam and collecting and analyzing ejected secondary ions...

  • Thermal desorption spectroscopy
    Thermal desorption spectroscopy
    Thermal desorption spectroscopy , also known as temperature programmed desorption is a Buzzword for the method of observing desorbed molecules from a surface when the surface temperature is increased...

  • Thin film
    Thin film
    A thin film is a layer of material ranging from fractions of a nanometer to several micrometers in thickness. Electronic semiconductor devices and optical coatings are the main applications benefiting from thin film construction....

     growth and preparation techniques with stringent requirements for purity, such as molecular beam epitaxy
    Molecular beam epitaxy
    Molecular beam epitaxy is one of several methods of depositing single crystals. It was invented in the late 1960s at Bell Telephone Laboratories by J. R. Arthur and Alfred Y. Cho.-Method:...

     (MBE), UHV chemical vapor deposition
    Chemical vapor deposition
    Chemical vapor deposition is a chemical process used to produce high-purity, high-performance solid materials. The process is often used in the semiconductor industry to produce thin films. In a typical CVD process, the wafer is exposed to one or more volatile precursors, which react and/or...

     (CVD) and UHV pulsed laser deposition
    Pulsed laser deposition
    Pulsed laser deposition is a thin film deposition technique where a high power pulsed laser beam is focused inside a vacuum chamber to strike a target of the material that is to be deposited...

  • Angle resolved photoemission spectroscopy (ARPES)

UHV is necessary for these applications to reduce surface contamination, by reducing the number of molecules reaching the sample over a given time period. At 0.1 mPa (10−6 Torr), it only takes 1 second to cover a surface with a contaminant, so much lower pressures are needed for long experiments.

UHV is also required for:
  • Particle accelerator
    Particle accelerator
    A particle accelerator is a device that uses electromagnetic fields to propel charged particles to high speeds and to contain them in well-defined beams. An ordinary CRT television set is a simple form of accelerator. There are two basic types: electrostatic and oscillating field accelerators.In...

  • Gravitational wave detector
    Gravitational wave detector
    A gravitational wave detector is any experiment designed to measure gravitational waves, minute distortions of spacetime that are predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity. The existence of gravitational radiation is a prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity. Gravitational...

    s such as LIGO
    LIGO, which stands for the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory, is a large-scale physics experiment aiming to directly detect gravitational waves. Cofounded in 1992 by Kip Thorne and Ronald Drever of Caltech and Rainer Weiss of MIT, LIGO is a joint project between scientists at MIT,...

    , VIRGO
    -Astronomy:* Virgo Cluster, a cluster of galaxies in the constellation Virgo* Virgo , a constellation* Virgo Stellar Stream, remains of a dwarf galaxy* Virgo Supercluster, a galactic supercluster-Surname:* Virgo...

    , GEO 600
    GEO 600
    GEO 600 is a gravitational wave detector located near Sarstedt, Germany. This instrument, and its sister interferometric detectors, when operational, are some of the most sensitive gravitational wave detectors ever designed...

    , and TAMA 300
    TAMA 300
    TAMA 300 is a gravitational wave detector located at the Mitaka campus of the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan. It is a project of the gravitational wave studies group at the Institute for Cosmic Ray Research of the University of Tokyo...

  • Atomic physics
    Atomic physics
    Atomic physics is the field of physics that studies atoms as an isolated system of electrons and an atomic nucleus. It is primarily concerned with the arrangement of electrons around the nucleus and...

     experiments which use cold atoms, such as ion trap
    Ion trap
    An ion trap is a combination of electric or magnetic fields that captures ions in a region of a vacuum system or tube. Ion traps have a number of scientific uses such as mass spectrometery and trapping ions while the ion's quantum state is manipulated...

    ping or making Bose-Einstein condensates

and, while not compulsory, can prove beneficial in applications such as:
  • Atomic force microscopy. High vacuum enables high Q factor
    Q factor
    In physics and engineering the quality factor or Q factor is a dimensionless parameter that describes how under-damped an oscillator or resonator is, or equivalently, characterizes a resonator's bandwidth relative to its center frequency....

    s on the cantilever oscillation.
  • Scanning tunneling microscopy. High vacuum reduces oxidation and contamination, hence enables imaging and the achievement of atomic resolution on clean metal and semiconductor
    A semiconductor is a material with electrical conductivity due to electron flow intermediate in magnitude between that of a conductor and an insulator. This means a conductivity roughly in the range of 103 to 10−8 siemens per centimeter...

     surfaces, e.g. imaging the surface reconstruction
    Surface reconstruction
    Surface reconstruction refers to the process by which atoms at the surface of a crystal assume a different structure than that of the bulk. Surface reconstructions are important in that they help in the understanding of surface chemistry for various materials, especially in the case where another...

     of the unoxidized silicon
    Silicon is a chemical element with the symbol Si and atomic number 14. A tetravalent metalloid, it is less reactive than its chemical analog carbon, the nonmetal directly above it in the periodic table, but more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table...


Achieving ultra-high vacuum

Extraordinary steps are required to reach UHV, including the following:
  • High pumping speed — possibly multiple vacuum pump
    Vacuum pump
    A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial vacuum. The first vacuum pump was invented in 1650 by Otto von Guericke.- Types :Pumps can be broadly categorized according to three techniques:...

    s in series and/or parallel
  • Minimize surface area in the chamber
  • High conductance tubing to pumps — short and fat, without obstruction
  • Use low-outgassing
    Outgassing is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material. As an example, research has shown how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has sometimes been linked to ocean outgassing...

     materials such as certain stainless steels
  • Avoid creating pits of trapped gas behind bolts, welding voids, etc.
  • Electropolish
    Electropolishing, also known as electrochemical polishing or electrolytic polishing , is an electrochemical process that removes material from a metallic workpiece. It is used to polish, passivate, and deburr metal parts. It is often described as the reverse of electroplating...

     all metal parts after machining or welding
  • Use low vapor pressure materials (ceramics, glass, metals, teflon if unbaked)
  • Bake the system to remove water or hydrocarbons adsorbed to the walls
  • Chill chamber walls to cryogenic temperatures during use
  • Avoid all traces of hydrocarbons, including skin oils in a fingerprint — always use gloves

Outgassing is the release of a gas that was dissolved, trapped, frozen or absorbed in some material. As an example, research has shown how the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth's atmosphere has sometimes been linked to ocean outgassing...

 is a significant problem for UHV systems. Outgassing can occur from two sources: surfaces and bulk materials. Outgassing from bulk materials is minimized by careful selection of materials with low vapor pressures (such as glass
Glass is an amorphous solid material. Glasses are typically brittle and optically transparent.The most familiar type of glass, used for centuries in windows and drinking vessels, is soda-lime glass, composed of about 75% silica plus Na2O, CaO, and several minor additives...

, stainless steel
Stainless steel
In metallurgy, stainless steel, also known as inox steel or inox from French "inoxydable", is defined as a steel alloy with a minimum of 10.5 or 11% chromium content by mass....

, and ceramic
A ceramic is an inorganic, nonmetallic solid prepared by the action of heat and subsequent cooling. Ceramic materials may have a crystalline or partly crystalline structure, or may be amorphous...

s) for everything inside the system. Even materials which are not generally considered absorbent can outgas, including most plastic
A plastic material is any of a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic organic solids used in the manufacture of industrial products. Plastics are typically polymers of high molecular mass, and may contain other substances to improve performance and/or reduce production costs...

s and some metals. For example, vessels lined with a highly gas-permeable material such as palladium
Palladium is a chemical element with the chemical symbol Pd and an atomic number of 46. It is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston. He named it after the asteroid Pallas, which was itself named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired...

 (which is a high-capacity hydrogen
Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 sponge) create special outgassing problems.

Outgassing from surfaces is a subtler problem. At extremely low pressures, more gas molecules are adsorbed on the walls than are floating in the chamber, so the total surface area inside a chamber is more important than its volume for reaching UHV. Water
Water is a chemical substance with the chemical formula H2O. A water molecule contains one oxygen and two hydrogen atoms connected by covalent bonds. Water is a liquid at ambient conditions, but it often co-exists on Earth with its solid state, ice, and gaseous state . Water also exists in a...

 is a significant source of outgassing because a thin layer of water vapor rapidly adsorbs to everything whenever the chamber is opened to air. Water evaporates from surfaces too slowly to be fully removed at room temperature, but just fast enough to present a continuous level of background contamination. Removal of water and similar gases generally requires baking the UHV system at 200 to 400 °C while vacuum pumps are running. During chamber use, the walls of the chamber may be chilled using liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen
Liquid nitrogen is nitrogen in a liquid state at a very low temperature. It is produced industrially by fractional distillation of liquid air. Liquid nitrogen is a colourless clear liquid with density of 0.807 g/mL at its boiling point and a dielectric constant of 1.4...

 to reduce outgassing further.

Hydrogen is the chemical element with atomic number 1. It is represented by the symbol H. With an average atomic weight of , hydrogen is the lightest and most abundant chemical element, constituting roughly 75% of the Universe's chemical elemental mass. Stars in the main sequence are mainly...

 and carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide
Carbon monoxide , also called carbonous oxide, is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is slightly lighter than air. It is highly toxic to humans and animals in higher quantities, although it is also produced in normal animal metabolism in low quantities, and is thought to have some normal...

 are the most common background gases in a well-designed, well-baked UHV system. Both Hydrogen and CO diffuse out from the grain boundaries in stainless steel. Helium could diffuse through the steel and glass from the outside air, but the abundance of He is usually negligible in the atmosphere.

There is no single vacuum pump
Vacuum pump
A vacuum pump is a device that removes gas molecules from a sealed volume in order to leave behind a partial vacuum. The first vacuum pump was invented in 1650 by Otto von Guericke.- Types :Pumps can be broadly categorized according to three techniques:...

 that can operate all the way from atmospheric pressure to ultra-high vacuum. Instead, a series of different pumps is used, according to the appropriate pressure range for each pump. Pumps commonly used to achieve UHV include:
  • Turbomolecular pump
    Turbomolecular pump
    A turbomolecular pump is a type of vacuum pump, superficially similar to a turbopump, used to obtain and maintain high vacuum. 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...

    s (especially compound and/or magnetic bearing types)
  • Ion pumps
  • Titanium sublimation pump
    Titanium sublimation pump
    A Titanium sublimation pump may be used as a component of ultra high vacuum systems.- Principle of Operation :Its construction and principle of operation is extremely simple. It consists of a titanium filament through which a high current is passed periodically...

  • Non-evaporable getter (NEG) pumps
    Non-Evaporable Getter
    Non-Evaporable Getter is a powder of an Al-Zr alloy that readily forms stable compounds with active gases. Sintered onto the inner surface of high vacuum vessels, it acts as a getter or getter pump that is able to reduce the pressure to less than 10−9 Torr...

  • Cryopump
    A cryopump is a vacuum pump that traps gases and vapours by condensing them on a cold surface. They are only effective on some gases, depending on the freezing and boiling points of the gas relative to the cryopump's temperature...


UHV pressures are measured with an ion gauge, either a hot filament or an inverted magnetron type.

Finally, special seals and gaskets must be used between components in a UHV system to prevent even trace leakage. Nearly all such seals are all metal, with knife edges on both sides cutting into a soft, copper gasket. This all-metal seal can maintain pressures down to 100 pPa (~10−12 Torr).

Measuring high vacuum

Measurement of high vacuum is done using a nonabsolute gauge that measures a pressure-related property of the vacuum, for example, its thermal conductivity. See, for example, Pacey. These gauges must be calibrated. The gauges capable of the measuring the lowest pressures are magnetic gauges based upon the pressure dependence of the current in a spontaneous gas discharge in intersecting electric and magnetic fields.

UHV manipulator

A UHV manipulator allows an object which is inside a vacuum chamber and under vacuum to be mechanically positioned. It may provide rotary
motion, linear motion, or a combination of both. The most complex devices give motion in three axes and rotations around two of those axes. To generate the mechanical movement inside the chamber, two basic mechanisms are commonly employed: a mechanical coupling through the vacuum wall (using a vacuum-tight seal around the coupling), or a magnetic coupling that transfers motion from air-side to vacuum-side. Various forms of motion control are available for manipulators, such as knobs, handwheels, motors, stepping motors, piezoelectric motor
Piezoelectric motor
A piezoelectric motor or piezo motor is a type of electric motor based upon the change in shape of a piezoelectric material when an electric field is applied. Piezoelectric motors make use of the converse piezoelectric effect whereby the material produces acoustic or ultrasonic vibrations in order...

s, and pneumatics
Pneumatics is a branch of technology, which deals with the study and application of use of pressurized gas to effect mechanical motion.Pneumatic systems are extensively used in industry, where factories are commonly plumbed with compressed air or compressed inert gases...


The manipulator or sample holder may include features which allow additional control and testing of a sample, such as the ability to apply heat, cooling, voltage, or a magnetic field. Sample heating can be accomplished by electron bombardment or thermal radiation. For electron bombardment, the sample holder is equipped with a filament which emits electrons when biased at a high negative potential. The impact of the
electrons bombarding the sample at high energy causes it to heat. For thermal radiation, a filament is mounted close to the sample and resistively heated to high temperature. The infrared energy from the filament heats the sample.

See also

  • Vacuum engineering
    Vacuum engineering
    Vacuum engineering deals with technological processes and equipment that use vacuum to achieve better results than those run under atmospheric pressure...

  • Vacuum gauge
  • Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology
    Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology
    The name Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology combines two scientific journals, JVST A and JVST B, published by the American Vacuum Society since 1964.-History:*1964–1982 Journal of Vacuum Science and Technology...

  • Vacuum state
    Vacuum state
    In quantum field theory, the vacuum state is the quantum state with the lowest possible energy. Generally, it contains no physical particles...

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