When the magician tells you there is nothing up his sleeve, you are invited to look beyond arm sweat and foul air for the cards or bunnies lurking within.
But when a high-quality microchip manufacturer says there is nothing in their vacuum chamber, you really need to trust them. Hairs, dust particles, or even particles of contaminants can be enough to destroy delicate technology.
The US National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has now validated a process they’ve been working on for some time to accurately measure extremely low gas pressure within a limited space, offering industries and researchers a new way to get to nothing.
Trying to chase every gas particle out of the container quickly becomes a fool’s errand. A few stubborn stragglers will inevitably remain. However, if their collective pressure less than 0.000001 Pa (about a trillionth of an atmosphere), we can call it a supervacuum using the Cold Atomic Vacuum Standard (CAVS).
Obtain an accurate and reliable measurement of this level of vacuum hard thingusually depends on devices that are used remaining gas molecules as a starting point for the electron, or charge them and collect ionized particles for counting.
However, the researchers wondered if the limitations of experiments involving laser-cooled atoms could be turned into a useful tool for detecting and calculating the remnants of the atmosphere left in a vacuum chamber.
Cold, uncharged metal atoms trapped in magnetic traps often suffer Annoying problem – flying gas particles can knock them right out of their cage. On the other hand, measuring the loss of these atoms can provide a fairly reliable indication of the concentration of high-velocity particles in their environment.
By attaching a magnetic trap loaded with about a thousand lithium or rubidium atoms to a vacuum chamber, NIST researchers have shown that it is possible to measure pressures continuously within the ultra-high vacuum range, creating a new type of CAVS sensor.
While they’ve been tinkering with the device for the better part of the past seven years, the team recently connected their new CAVS technology to a system that can steadily leak tens of billions of particles into a room per second.
By comparing the standard size of particles entering the chamber with the measurements on the innovative CAVS sensor, the team showed that their method is not just a zero point; It is much simpler than anything that has been produced before.
And without the need for calibration, it is in fact a standard vacuum gauge right out of the box.
“In fact, the portable version is so simple, we eventually decided to automate it so that we rarely have to interfere with its operation.” He says NIST physicist Dan Parker.
“In fact, most of the data from the portable CAVS for this study was taken while we were sleeping comfortably at home.”
It may not quite be like magic, but for producers of cutting-edge semiconductors or researchers who rely on vacuum cleaners to study everything from gravitational waves To turn quantum chaos into nothingness itself, new technology could be just what they need to ensure they have almost nothing up their sleeves.
This research was published in AVS Quantum Science.