Miniature Scroll Pumps Fabricated by LIGA

These would serve as roughing pumps for vacuum systems of miniature instruments.

Miniature scroll pumps have been proposed as roughing pumps (low-vacuum pumps) for miniature scientific instruments (e.g., portable mass spectrometers and gas analyzers) that depend on vacuum. The larger scroll pumps used as roughing pumps in some older vacuum systems are fabricated by conventional machining. Typically, such an older scroll pump includes (1) an electric motor with an eccentric shaft to generate orbital motion of a scroll and (2) conventional bearings to restrict the orbital motion to a circle.

The proposed miniature scroll pumps would differ from the prior, larger ones in both design and fabrication. A miniature scroll pump would include two scrolls: one mounted on a stationary baseplate and one on a flexure stage (see figure). An electromagnetic actuator in the form of two pairs of voice coils in a push-pull configuration would make the flexure stage move in the desired circular orbit. The capacitance between the scrolls would be monitored to provide position (gap) feedback to a control system that would adjust the drive signals applied to the voice coils to maintain the circular orbit as needed for precise sealing of the scrolls. To minimize power consumption and maximize precision of control, the flexure stage would be driven at the frequency of its mechanical resonance.

The miniaturization of these pumps would entail both operational and manufacturing tolerances of <1 μm. Such tight tolerances cannot be achieved easily by conventional machining of high-aspect-ratio structures like those of scroll-pump components. In addition, the vibrations of conventional motors and ball bearings exceed these tight tolerances by an order of magnitude. Therefore, the proposed pumps would be fabricated by the micro-fabrication method known by the German acronym LIGA (“lithographie, galvanoformung, abformung,” which means lithography, electroforming, molding) because LIGA has been shown to be capable of providing the required tolerances at large aspect ratios.

This work was done by Dean Wiberg, Kirill Shcheglov, Victor White, and Sam Bae of Caltech for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

In accordance with Public Law 96-517, the contractor has elected to retain title to this invention. Inquiries concerning rights for its commercial use should be addressed to:

Innovative Technology Assets Management
Mail Stop 202-233
4800 Oak Grove Drive
Pasadena, CA 91109-8099
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Refer to NPO-21161, volume and number of this NASA Tech Briefs issue, and the page number.

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).

Miniature Scroll Pumps Fabricated by LIGA (reference NPO-21161) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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