Tuesday, February 23, 2010

high vacuum

I'm still working on parts for the Mad Science Light Switch.

BUT: another project of mine that I've been working on (talking about) for years is my high vacuum system. This is necessary for a short list of other projects and experiments I want to do including mirror coating, a 500kV linear accelerator (maybe 1MV if my buddy builds an identical Van de Graaff generator), and maybe a small electron microscope. I also want to try my hand at making my own vacuum tube at least once - a triode. IF that French guy on YouTube can make slick small ones by the dozen, I ought to be able to make a single clunky large one that works. What a shame I cannibalized that induction furnace I used to have. Would have been great for baking out the tube elements before sealing the tube.

I've left the high vacuum system sitting for a while, because it either has a leak or it has bad gauge electronics, and I couldn't tell which without an additional set of gauges connected to the system.

Well, I had the extra gauges (one thermocouple, one Bayard-Alpert ion gauge) and I had an old (vacuum tubes!) Veeco gauge controller. I needed a way to mount the gauges on the input (top of the "stack") port where the chamber base bolts on, and I needed some funky cables to connect the gauges to the controller.

Some years ago, I built an adapter blank-off plate which would accept a gauge holding flange, and which would in turn bolt onto the system. After that, I got side-tracked with other things.

Recently, I ordered nearly all of the parts and connectors I need to finish hooking up the gauge controller to the second set of gauges. I still need to order a few more minor items next pay-day.

Once everything is hooked up and (hopefully) working, then if the new gauges agree with the old, then I have a leak.

If the new gauges disagree, then I have to fix or adjust the original gauge electronics in the vacuum system.

The circuitry isn't TOO complicated, but I almost wish it were a leak. Except that chasing high vacuum leaks is no fun (I've been doing it for weeks and weeks at work), and troubleshooting electronics to the component level is something I should get good at again - I am somewhat out of practice.

I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens.

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