Defining the Vacuum Industry

by | Apr 16, 2021 | Blog

Defining the Vacuum Industry

What do most people think of when they hear the phrase “vacuum industry?” They probably think about vacuum sweepers or vacuum cleaners, right?

However, there is a difference between that and the industry we are in. Today, we’ll look at the vacuum industry, defined as the scientific and industrial industry focused on vacuum chambers and components, and what that means to us at GNB Corporation.

An Overview
Vacuum sweepers are just air movement devices. They don’t pull a powerful vacuum.

Did you know that you can actually pull a stronger vacuum with a straw while drinking your soda?

The vacuum industry is about airless environments – vacuum chambers and components. It’s about what you see in outer space, including controlled air environments or controlled gas environments. Whether it be an argon environment or a nitrogen environment, it is very different from just a vacuum sweeper when you’re controlling the atmosphere.

On Earth, we’re surrounded by air and we don’t even realize it. In one cubic inch of air there are 492 quintillion air molecules. That’s a lot of air packed into one little cubic inch. We translate that to what we commonly think about as barometric pressure (29 or 30 inches of mercury).

Mean Free Path
Have you ever heard the phrase “mean free path”? Mean free path looks at how far an air molecule can move before bumping into another air molecule. What is the distance, on average, between two air molecules?

In the atmosphere, the distance between two air molecules is 3 x 10–6 inches. In other words, they are very tightly packed, can barely even move and are bumping against other air molecules.

Now let’s compare that with vacuum.

A “rough” vacuum level is 1 X 10–3 Torr. Which is what we consider a rough vacuum. That changes a lot. On average, in a “rough” vacuum level, an air molecule can move 2 inches before it hits another air molecule. There’s still a lot of air molecules – 656 trillion in a rough vacuum per cubic inch. So that’s still a lot of molecules, but the distance between those tiny little molecules has significantly increased.

Did you know the average man has a surface area of 2,900 square inches? With that amount of surface area over your body, men are under more than 21 tons of pressure from the atmosphere.

On average, a woman has a surface area of about 2,480 square inches. And they are under about 18.6 tons of pressure, on average, on their bodies from atmospheric pressure.

GNB Corporation knows how to manage atmospheric pressure. Although atmospheric pressure at 14.7 PSIA may not seem like a lot, it is the same force per square inch that is exerted by a steel slab that is 52 inches thick. We specialize in making vacuum chambers, pressure vessels and vacuum components. This is equipment that creates the airless environments that are needed.

Vacuum Uses
Vacuum is used in many different places. It is used in industry; a lot of metallurgical products like titanium are made in vacuum. Heat treatment for products is often done in a vacuum chamber. So, there are a lot of essential industrial products that require vacuum to be made.

There are also a lot of consumer products that require vacuum. For example, microchips and semiconductors require vacuum. Flat-panel displays require vacuum. Your cellphone, the display, the microprocessor, even some of the battery components are often made in vacuum.

So vacuum products are required throughout the industry, throughout consumer goods and in most cases, we don’t even know the process used to make the products that we commonly use.

We also use vacuum in the scientific industry.

That means we use vacuum for space simulation. We use vacuum when doing scientific tests. We use vacuum for performing cancer treatments. We use vacuum for synchrotrons and cyclotrons and linear accelerators and for laser experiments as well as for fusion experiments.

Take a minute where you are to look around the room. Try to find things that you think were created in a vacuum environment. (Hint: Light bulbs and the coatings on a pair of glasses were made using vacuum).

At GNB Corporation, we are vacuum experts. We are in the vacuum industry.

For all of your vacuum chamber and component needs, please visit our website, or call 800-398-8470.