The History of the Ion Sublimation Pump

The invention of the Ion Pump is credited to a pair of individuals which are now responsible for the advent of Agilent Ion Getter Pumps, and is widely regarded as the milestone in human innovation that made Ultra High Vacuum applications possible. Without the Ion Pump, the entire scientific field of ultra high vacuum, and all of the applications it brings, would be non-existent. As such, biology, physics, and chemistry would not have enjoyed its advances. We explore the history behind the Ion Pump in this article.

The invention of the Ion Pump is credited to a company named Varian, which was founded in 1948 by Russell Varian (also credited with the invention of the Klystron) as well as his brother, Sigurd Varian – who specialised in the field of microwave electron tubes. Originally, the ion pump was developed as an appendage device to the mean of maintaining UHV in microwave power tubes after processing, but was later developed in order to incorporate honeycomb shaped anodes as well as commercial vaclon pumps in order to speed this process by thousands of litres per second.

In 1960 the slotted titanium cathode was developed, and given the name “super vaclon pump”, and then introduced to the commercial market. Furthermore, triode pumps were invented by the Consolidated Electrodynamics Corporation, and Varian begun to sell them under the commercial name “Noble Ion Pumps” and later, “Triode Ion Pumps”.

Nowadays, Varian Ion Pumps as a company is alive and well, though operating under the business name Agilent Technologies. Agilent specialise in a number of ion pumps, most notably their Getter Ion Pumps as well as their Titanium Sublimation Pumps.

Agilent Technologies have a number of authorised distributors for their Ion Pumps, most notably Scanwel, a British Ultra High Vacuum specialist company which has been in the business of working with, and repairing, ion pumps for well over 30 years.