The Importance of Vacuum in Mass Spec

 In Industry, Medical Devices

Why Does a Mass Spectrometer Require a High Vacuum?

Vacuum technology is a core component of any Mass Spectrometer. The ability to achieve and maintain an effective vacuum within the Mass Spec machine is vital for several reasons.

Firstly, it allows for the creation of a chemically clean environment. Reactions between sample ions and those of contaminant gases can significantly impact the clarity of sample analysis. As such, the exclusion of these residual gases by way of an effective vacuum is essential to optimizing Mass Spec performance.

Secondly, many Mass Spec elements require the ability to maintain large electric potential without “arching”, this is achievable in an effective vacuum environment.

Thirdly, achieving and maintaining an effective vacuum helps to prevent signal loss. In order to maintain signal strength, the mean free path of ions (that is, the average distance of an ion’s path without collision) must be greater than the flight distance from the Ion Source to the detector. A high-level vacuum results in a mean free path exceeding the length of the vacuum chamber and means that ions can easily reach the detector. However, if the level of vacuum is not sufficient, ions may collide with residual (air, water, etc.) or carrier gases (He) as they progress through the Mass Spectrometer resulting in depleted signal strength.


The Vacuum Chamber

The Primary role of the Vacuum Chamber is to allow the Mass Spectrometer to achieve different levels of vacuum within the machine. An effective vacuum chamber will achieve below atmospheric pressure immediately after the ion source allowing the sample to be pulled into the vacuum chamber. Once the sample enters the Vacuum Chamber from the Ion Source, it is accelerating through the Focussing Cones to an area of higher vacuum towards the Detector.


It is important to reiterate how vital it is that the Vacuum Chamber is beyond airtight. If you’re sucking air and other foreign particles in through the Mass Spec, these will be picked up by the detector. This will result in you seeing a wide spectrum within your results rather than an accurate representation of your sample.

The Vacuum Pump

The Vacuum Pump is connected to the Vacuum Chamber by way of specialised, beyond airtight, flanges that are produced from stainless steel and designed to eliminate the risk of microscopic leakage.

The pumps themselves are very different from your generic vacuum cleaner and the complexity involved in their production is reflected in the fact that there are very few vacuum pump manufacturers in the industry. The ultra-high vacuum produced by the pump extracts molecules from the Ion Source as it spins at turbocharger levels. This allows Ions to travel freely through the Vacuum Chamber without colliding with air molecules and ensuring accurate sample analysis.

Schivo Medical’s Vacuum Chamber Experience

Schivo are specialists in the contract manufacture of precision components and electro-mechanical cleanroom sub-assembly completion with more than 35 years of experience working with industry leaders in the Life Sciences space. There are a significant number of components included in the final subassembly of the Vacuum Chamber which our engineering teams produce to industry specifications.

The table below shows a selection of the components that Schivo currently produce and complete the cleanroom subassembly of on our clients’ behalf.

If you would like to talk to us about producing components for your upcoming Life Science instruments or want to learn more about our precision engineering capabilities, you can contact our engineering team by submitting the form below.


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