Keep Your Mass Spectrometry Vacuum System in Tip-Top Condition

ScheduleWe just don’t post about the advantages of using dedicated lab furniture for all your mass spectrometry and other critical lab operations. You knew that! We also like to include posts that support your mass spectrometry work. For example, in this post, we’ll talk about the importance of correctly servicing your MS vacuum system because while we want our lab benches to keep your vacuum pumps nice and quiet, we also don’t want them to fall silent due to neglect or disrepair.

The Importance of Maintenance

Mechanical downtime is never good in a lab. Many labs actually hold on to older mass spec models and keep them tucked away on rolling dedicated lab furniture so they can be brought out in case of emergency. But one of the best ways to prevent those emergencies is proper servicing of every component.

When it comes to mass spectrometry, the vacuum system is one of those critical systems that must be regularly maintained in order to keep your lab fully functioning at all times.

The advantages of following a vacuum system maintenance schedule include better sensitivity, preventing early filament failure, and a reduction in the need for source cleaning. Proper servicing also extends the life of the quadrupole and helps avoid premature failure of the EM Horn.

Mass Spectrometry Vacuum System Service

Every mass spec is going to be slightly different, so it’s always wise to read up on the particular needs of your machines and put appropriate reminders on your calendar. But in general terms, vacuum pump systems should be checked weekly and fully serviced every six months.

Weekly tasks include checking the level of mechanical pump oil and making sure that the seals and O-rings are still fully functioning and flexible. The ion gauge tube should also be checked and degassed when needed. Look for background contamination and leaks as well. If there are any signs of corruption, pull the system out of service and repair it immediately.

Replacing the Vacuum System Pump Oil

The full servicing of the vacuum system primarily involves replacing the mechanical pump oil. Every six months is a good guideline, but that is dependent on your specific applications.

As always, review your mass spec manual for the correct procedures when replacing the pump oil, and always avoid contact with used oil, as it may contain trace amounts of toxic samples. Used oil should be disposed of safely and properly. Once it has been replaced, if your MS has a foreline trap, remember to also replace the molecular sieves.

Extending the Life of Your Mass Spectrometry Electron Multiplier

Besides regular maintenance, there are additional steps you can take to maximize the life of your MS. The electron multiplier will function best without contamination or condensation. Therefore, you should always maintain vacuum at the highest level. Vent and pumpdown with caution and care, and minimize pump fluid background. Any time you vent, do not scan for at least four hours, to allow for pumpdown and thermal equilibration.

Don’t Go Overboard

Of course, with all the complex, expensive machines and systems in your lab, there could be a tendency to go overboard. You don’t want to open and close your machine too frequently, or tune excessively. Otherwise, PFTBA can eventually result in higher background.

This is why it’s also wise to use dedicated lab furniture, which will help keep every mass spectrometer in peak condition by providing a strong, stable surface on which to work and a ventilated chamber for quieting your vacuum pump system. To learn more about how we can support your mass spectrometry research with our custom-designed lab benches, contact us today.