Surface Adsorption Ultra-High Vacuum Pumps

Technology #16313

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Luis Fernando Velasquez-Garcia
MicroSystems Technology Laboratories, MIT
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Arash Akhavan Fomani
MicroSystems Technology Laboratories, MIT
Professor Akintunde Akinwande
Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, MIT
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Jim Freedman
MIT Technology Licensing Officer - Chemicals, Instruments, Consumer Products
Patent Protection

Surface adsorption Ultra High Vacuum Pumps and Methods to Produce Adsorbate-free surfaces

US Patent Pending US 2015-0017022
MIT develops handheld mass spectrometer
ZME Science, September 9, 2014
Mass spectrometry in your hand
MIT News, September 8, 2014
Mass Spectrometry in Your Hand
The Engineer, September 10, 2014


Applications for this technology are as follows:

  • Portable analytical instruments such as: mass spectrometers, gas chromatography systems, hyphenated systems (tandem systems that result in far greater analytical information power)
  • UHV MEMS packaging for : High Power Amplifiers and THz generators, pressure sensors, physical and internal sensors based on atom ic spectroscopy such as atomic clocks, atomic magnetometers, atomic gyroscopes, atomic accelerometers, atomic gravimeters, atomic electric field sensors, and atomic gravity gradiometers.

Problem Addressed

A broad range of high sensitivity sensors and analytical instruments, including physical and internal sensors based on atomic spectroscopy, require very high vacuums to operate. Currently, the size and power consumption of an ultra-high vacuum (UHV) pump is significantly larger than other components in these systems, preventing development of portable/handheld devices. In addition, the pump pressure decays due to leakage. The leakage also causes the pressure inside the cavity to rise to an extent that damages the device or prevents proper operation.


This technology is a method of UHV pumping, which can be miniaturized for on-chip applications and can maintain a closed system at low pressures for a long time. The device can also be used as a second stage of a command pump. In this method, gas molecules in the volume of the chamber are captured on an absorbate-free surface of a solid getter. As a result, the number of molecules in the gas phase, and consequently the chamber pressure is reduced. The surface of solids tend to absorb and tightly hold a monolayer of molecules with heats of absorption as high as 5-10 eV. The surface absorption method achieves high vacuums (pressures as low as 10^(-9) Torr) by sing an iterative gas excitation and gas evacuation. The pumping scheme does not sputter surplus materials and therefore maintains vacuum fidelity and operational reliability.


  • Small footprint
  • Low power consumption
  • No requirement for magnetic field, allows application in gyroscope and magnetic sensors
  • Increased reliability due to lack of sputtered particle or extreme heat