With new planetary missions, especially to Mars being planned, there has been an increasing demand for sensitive chemical, and biological, detection devices for analysis on the surface. The vast majority of these devices have presented challenges to the scientists and design engineers to translate what has previously been the domain of the laboratory, into compact and low powered devices. Of the family of detectors that have been used to meet the challenge, none has greater potential, yet been more difficult to miniaturize into a portable form factor, than the mass spectrometer. Mass spectrometers, unlike some spectrometers such as ion mobility (IMS), require a partial pressure region to scan for a given mass number indicative of the trace species of interest. Probably the most significant hurdle yet to overcome is how one can create a cost effective, small, and low power vacuum system. Over the past 30+ years, no significant advance in vacuum pump concepts save for the turbo-molecular pump has been realized. The proposed concept offers a potential for game-changing new technology that may obviate a turbo pump in many applications while promising to provide significant cost savings with unprecedented reliability and longevity for future space missions.
Spacecraft laboratories on the ISS as well as future manned spaceflight, could benefit greatly from the success of the proposed technology. Using the vacuum of space for an analytical instrument is highly undesirable due to the safety factor of creating any leaks on a spacecraft, and the discharge of atmospheric gases could affect the space vessel station keeping. As a result, there is a need for a means to create a vacuum for analytical devices such as mass spectrometers used on spacecraft and probes for interplanetary missions. .
Mass spectrometers require a partial pressure region to scan for a given mass number indicative of the target species. Up to now, there has not been a means to miniaturize a high vacuum pump for use in handheld mass spectroimeters or possible drone applications. The high RPM in a turbopump creates a gyroscopic precession that precludes many uses that are not so limited by the disclosed technology.