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A vacuum pump is simply a pump that moves air into or out of something else. Sometimes it removes gas from an area, leaving a partial vacuum behind; other times a vacuum pump will remove water from one area to another, as a sump pump does in a basement. Vacuum pumps are used in an industrial setting to produce vacuum tubes and electric lamps, and to process semiconductors. They can also produce a vacuum that can then be used to power a piece of equipment. In aircrafts, for example, the gyroscopes located in some of the flight instruments are powered by a vacuum source in case of an electrical failure.

There are as many vacuum pumps as there are uses for them. Classification is a complicated and oftentimes varying process. However, it is possible to narrow the field down to two broad categories: transfer pumps and trapping, or entrapment, pumps. Entrapment pumps work by trapping molecules within a confined space. Examples are the cryopump, which traps liquified gas molecules in a cold trap, and the ion pump, which uses ionized gas that is magnetically confined. ion pump. Transfer pumps (also known as kinetic pumps) such as the turbomolecular pump use momentum to accelerate gas from the vacuum side to the exhaust side.

Another classification of vacuum pumps is the compressed-air vacuum pump versus the mechanical pump. Compressed-air pumps work off of Bernouli’s Principle, which relies on pressure differentials to creature a vacuum. The mechanical vacuum pumps usually have an electrical motor as a power source, but can alternatively rely on an internal combustion engine, anddraw air from a closed volume and release it to the atmosphere. The rotating-vane vacuum pump is the most popular of kind of mechanical pump. Individual rotors are placed around a shaft and spin at high velocities. Air is trapped and moved through the intake port and a vacuum is created behind it.

As technology advances so do the kinds of vacuum pumps which are available. Pumps which are created for use in one industry, such as “dry” vacuum pumps (created originally for the semiconductor industry) are modified for use in other areas. There seems to be no limit to what can be done with the vacuum pump.

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