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Vacuum 85 (2011) 972e974

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A thermocouple vacuum gauge for low vacuum measurement

Celso de Araujo Duarte
Departamento de Fsica, Universidade Federal do Paran, CP 19044, 81531-990 Curitiba (PR), Brazil

a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history: Received 1 November 2010 Received in revised form 23 November 2010 Accepted 14 February 2011 Keywords: Thermocouple Vacuum gauge Low vacuum

a b s t r a c t
The construction of a thermocouple vacuum gauge for the range of pressures from 200 to 800 mbar is reported. The gauge differs from similar ones that cover the medium vacuum region. The main difference is that the thermocouple is not xed to the lament, as usual, but is placed at some distance from the lament. 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction Many pressure gauges operate with reference to the thermal properties of the residual gas in the vacuum system. As an example, the well known Pirani [1e3] gauges measure with accuracy from about 6 103 to 0.6 mbar, or 101 to 102 mbar, using the variation of electrical resistance of a lament immersed in the vacuum whose residual pressure is being measured. Voege [4] as long ago as 1906 described a pressure gauge that consisted of an electrically heated lament to the middle of which a thermocouple was soldered. Both Voege and Pirani gauges operate at low pressures, but Steckelmacher [5] presented a possible alternative, using natural and forced convection, making possible the measurement for pressure ranges up to 101e102 mbar. The operation of Pirani and Voege gauges depends on the loss of heat from the hot lament to the surrounding gas, which, in turn, depends obviously on both the gas heat conductivity and the convective effects. We stress that this loss of heat has a third important term independent of the surrounding gas that is associated with the radiation, which obeys the StefaneBoltzmann law [6], but the gas conductivity and convection contributions can be distinguished from the radiant one in the heat loss, allowing Pirani and Voege gauges to be calibrated and used as vacuum gauges. The alternative presented here to the Voege gauge is to separate the hot lament from the thermocouple. In this conguration, the dynamics of heat exchange between hot lament, gas and thermocouple is modied. Apart from the three above-mentioned heat transfer phenomena, there is no direct transfer of heat from lament to thermocouple by conduction on the contact region but in
E-mail address: 0042-207X/$ e see front matter 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. doi:10.1016/j.vacuum.2011.02.004

place of that there is a radiant transfer. This change in the device geometry results of course in a different readout thermocouple voltage Vt for a given heating lament current If, and we expect in principle different experimental curves Vt If. Of course the shape of these curves will depend on several parameters of the geometry, such as the distance between lament and thermocouple, size of thermocouple, arrangement of lament and thermocouple (horizontal, vertical, etc.). The construction of a vacuum gauge meter of this kind operating at pressures near to the atmospheric pressure (up to 1000 mbar) has been considered to be a possibility. It is shown here that it is possible to achieve pressure measurements up to at least 800 mbar (employing the geometrical parameters that were used in this work). 2. Experimental The device was a cylindrical refractory glass tube (see Fig. 1) 100 mm long and with internal diameter 20 mm. Inside the tube there was a thin lament 50 mm long along the tube axis. Parallel to it there was a thermocouple 5 mm away from the tube axis. The lament had 1.42 101 mm diameter and an electrical resistance Rf 4.2 U, which was shown not to vary with the heating currents used in this work. A steel spring kept the lament always straight despite its thermal dilatation. The thermocouple was 85 mm long and consisted of wires of iron (3.0 101 mm diameter) and constantan (5.0 101 mm diameter), with a conversion factor0.54 mV/10 K. One of the ends of the glass tube had an aperture connected to a vacuum system as shown in Fig. 2, consisting of a vacuum pump, taps to control pressure and a liquid Hg column manometer for

C. de Araujo Duarte / Vacuum 85 (2011) 972e974


Fig. 1. Schematic representation of the vacuum gauge: (1) glass tube; (2) thermocouple iron wire; (3) thermocouple junction; (4) thermocouple constantan wire; (5) tube sealing; (6) thermocouple and lament electrical connections; (7) steel spring; (8) electrical wiring for lament; (9) copper plate; (10) lament; (11) lament and thermocouple holder; (12) aperture to vacuum system.

Fig. 2. Schematic representation of the complete setup: (A) the vacuum gauge, as shown in Fig. 1; (B) piping connections of the vacuum system; (C) vertical liquid Hg column inserted in a liquid Hg vessel, (D and E) tap for external air inlet; (F) tap in the pipe connected to the vacuum pump, (G).

calibration and reference. The other end of the tube was sealed and from this side the electrical connections of the lament and the thermocouple came out. The electrical heating source of the lament was a 0e25.0 V d.c. controlled and stabilized source, where the voltage and current were measured by a voltmeter (precision up to 0.1 V), and a milliammeter (precision up to 1 mA). The thermocouple was connected to a millivoltmeter, with 0.1 mV precision. The ambient temperature Ta was read in a liquid Hg bulb thermometer at the laboratory. During the operation, the tube was set in the horizontal position, in such a way that both the lament and the thermocouple remained in the same horizontal plane, that is, at the same height with respect to the oor. 3. Results and discussion 3.1. Results With the glass tube on the horizontal position as described in the previous section, the pressure was rst established at 20e26 mbar. The lament voltage was xed to a maximum of 7.00 V and its current was read. The pressure was increased step by step, up to ambient pressure (approximately 1000 mbar). At each step, the potential difference generated in the thermocouple by the heating of the lament was recorded. To be accurate, the reading was made only when thermocouple voltage stabilized after each step variation in pressure. That nished, the same procedure was repeated with

lower lament voltage down eventually to a value of 1.00 V. The maximum lament current reached about 1.3 A. Ambient temperature Ta was not the same for all curves, and varied between 25 and 27  C. The result was a set of successive curves relating the potential difference of the thermocouple Vt and pressure p to each xed lament voltage, as seen in Fig. 3. It can be seen that from about 200 to 800 mbar all curves were linear for all lament voltages, which demonstrates the convenience of using this device as a vacuum gauge meter in this linear regime range of pressures. The interpolation of the curves in the linear regime,

Vt a bp


resulted in the following values for the parameters a and b: a 1:1 0:26:4 0:3If2 , b 1:65 0:152:77 0:15If2 103 where If is in ampres, Vt is in mV and the vacuum pressure p is in mbar. This interpolation was made for the pressure range 200e800 mbar, which is seen in Fig. 3. Note that this tting formula corresponds to experimental data collected at Ta around 25e28  C. The dependence on the square of the lament current If2 in the expressions for the coefcients a and b is because the heat irradiated by the lament is determined by the power irradiated by Joule effect which is equal to the square of If multiplied by the lament resistance, Rf If2. The overall effect of the surrounding residual gas in the reduction of the thermocouple temperature (both by convection and by conduction) is represented by the second term in equation (1).


C. de Araujo Duarte / Vacuum 85 (2011) 972e974

Fig. 3. Plot of the experimental values of the thermocouple voltage Vt as a function of the pressure in the tube p. The full circles are experimental data, and the linking lines are to guide the eyes. Each curve was obtained for a given xed lament voltage Vf (at bottom, 1.00 V, at top, 7.00 V). The vertical arrow shows the corresponding increase of the lament current If.

in a complex dynamic way but, despite this, the dependence of the thermocouple temperature Tt on the hot lament current If has 4 apI 2 , a predictable relationship for a xed pressure, Tt4 Ta f [6,7], where a is only function of the pressure p. An important point to be stressed is the fact that the calibration curves presented on Fig. 3 and parameters a and b in equation (1) depend intrinsically on Ta As a consequence, to avoid the effects of the variation of the ambient temperature the tube must be enclosed in a cavity at constant temperature. Another possibility is to determine empirically the dependence of parameters a and b on Ta. Tests were made with the tube rotated 45 and 90 around its axis, and also placing the tube to the vertical position. The experimental results of these additional studies are not presented here since the optimal conguration for the operation of the device as a pressure gauge in the focused pressure range is the one presented above. Nevertheless, in these other tube positions and orientations a linear regime was also found for some ranges of pressure. In some cases the slopes of the curves were higher. 4. Conclusions It has been shown that the device can operate satisfactory as a vacuum gauge at the lament voltage of 7.00 V. The use of more robust and even thick laments could allow the use of higher voltages, which produce linear pressure regimes with steeper slopes. It is expected that, by choosing adequate sized glass tubes, thermocouple-lament distance, lament voltage, angle of rotation of the tube, or tilting the tube etc., the device can be used in other pressure ranges. References
[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] Roth A. Vacuum technology. North-Holland Publishing Company; 1982. Ellet A, Zabel RM. Phys. Rev. B 1931;37:1102. Sellenger RR. Vacuum 1968;18:645. Voege W. Physik Zeit. 1906;7:498. Steckelmacher W. Vacuum 1973;23:307. Duarte CA. Private communication. June, 2000. Duarte CA. Submited for publication.

3.2. Discussion In absolute vacuum, neglecting the effects of heat dissipation along the thermocouple itself by conduction to its ends, the temperature of the thermocouple can be determined from geometric parameters and the lament power Rf If2 employing the StefaneBoltzmann law of radiation [6]. In this situation, we have a simple relation between thermal radiation of the lament by the Joule effect and the temperature of the thermocouple: the radiation that arrives at the thermocouple is the sum of the fraction of radiation in the lament that arrives at the thermocouple, and the ambient thermal radiation, represented by a fourth-power term on ambient absolute temperature, Tt4. So ambient temperature is an important factor in this heat exchange and cannot be neglected. When the vacuum is replaced by a gas at a given pressure, conduction and convection effects obviously cool the thermocouple,