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How to Select the Right Vacuum Pump System for Your Lab

By Chris Tempas, Ph.D
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Laboratory technicians and scientists use vacuum pumps for a range of tasks, from aspirating and filtering to controlling or inducing solvent evaporation in concentrators. Vacuum pumps can also be found in gel dryers, vacuum ovens, desiccators, rotary evaporators, and, perhaps most notably, mass spectrometers.

Choosing the Right Pump System For You

There are a number of factors to consider when choosing the right vacuum pump system for your lab.

Traditionally, scientists and technicians have mainly used oil-sealed rotary vane vacuum pumps for lab work. However, these pumps come with a few disadvantages, as they:

  • Require regular oil top-ups
  • Are expensive to run
  • Require regular maintenance
  • Release some oil mist out into the immediate atmosphere (even with oil filter hardware)

As a response to these drawbacks, dry (i.e. oil-free) pump systems have emerged as a favorable alternative. However, you will still need to think about your laboratory's needs in order to select the right pump system for you.

Here's a list of factors you should consider when making your decision.

Factors to Consider

Pump Application

What exactly will you be using the pump system for? Pump application determines the pressure ranges that the system will be required to service. Check out a pressure-range chart to determine pump choices available for your desired range.

Related: Are you looking for the right pump for your application? We can help! With our online Pump Finder Tool it's quick and easy.


Noise
Levels

Watch out for loud pumps! A noisy pump may severely disrupt the quiet working conditions expected in a typical laboratory environment.

Related: See what OSHA has to say about laboratory safety here. You can also pick up our lab noise checklist to raise awareness in your lab today!

Download the checklist


Contamination
Levels

Some pumps are more likely to result in contamination (either in the gases being processed or those being expelled) than others, particularly oil-sealed rotary vane pumps. Even with oil-filter hardware in place, these pumps invariably release small quantities of oil into the processed gas. Also, captured and recycled oils need to be purged to remove condensate, a process that releases some oil mist into the laboratory environment. To avoid these side effects, opt for dry pump systems.

 
Size, Control, and footprint

These are three interconnected factors you need to consider when choosing a pump system. A pump unit that is too large will result in an unnecessarily large footprint. Large units are also difficult to control, especially if small, precise flows are required.

Costs

There are a number of costs you need to take into consideration. Aside from the initial investment and ongoing energy costs, expect to keep up with several maintenance requirements, including:

  • Replacing consumables (e.g. oil changes)
  • Replacing disposables (e.g. filter elements)
  • Hiring manpower to service the pump

Conclusion

While oil-sealed rotary vane pumps have traditionally been used for their reliability, low cost, and proven technology, their advantages are quickly being eclipsed by those of dry pumps. Dry pumps:

  • Do not contaminate the process gases or the surrounding environment
  • Produce low levels of noise
  • Enjoy long service intervals
  • Do not require costly oil replacements and disposals

Related: For more on wet to dry vacuum conversions and how they can impact your process- see our most recent webinar.

Watch now

Selecting the right vacuum pump system can help you increase lab productivity and make day-to-day tasks easier and more convenient. However, the wrong choice can lead to contamination, poor results that interfere with scientific objectives, increased maintenance costs, and an unpleasant working environment.

Tags: R&D

About Chris Tempas, Ph.D

Chris Tempas, Ph.D
Chris Tempas holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry from Indiana University. After receiving his B.S. degree in Chemistry from Michigan State University, Chris went on to a doctoral program at Indiana University, where his interest in vacuum got started. Hands-on learning with roughing pumps, turbomolecular pumps, Ion pumps, and gauges propelled Chris' knowledge of vacuum science and maintaining ultra high-vacuum. Recently promoted to Product Sales Development Manager, Chris now has the responsibility of specific ultra-high vacuum product lines within Leybold. This new role will allow more of a customer focus to overcome challenges and solve problems while teaching customers about vacuum technology. In his free time, Chris enjoys a good book (science fiction and fantasy), watching moves, playing video games, or simply spending time with family.

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