An Introduction to Vacuum Technology for the Amateur Scientist

Send to Kindle

Editor: I am delighted to present this offering from vacuum technology expert Steve Hansen who has been doing wonderful things in this area for a long time now. He has kindly consented to write a guide for the amateur scientist and make it available as a downloadable .pdf from his web site.-sg

By Steve Hansen

The content of this booklet is derived from articles which have appeared in the Bell Jar (ISSN 1071-4219), the quarterly journal of vacuum technique and related topics in physics for the amateur experimenter.

This booket was prepared for the Citizen Scientists League, and may be freely distributed, in its complete and unaltered form, throughout the community of amateur scientists for educational purposes. Commercial use is prohibited.

To visit the download page and to learn more, go to

About Steve Hansen:

Steve Hansen is the editor and publisher of the Bell Jar, a primary source of vacuum knowledge targeted specifically to the amateur. Steve’s interest in vacuum began as a child when he discovered his grandfather’s copy of Silvanus P. Thompson’s 1898 “Elementary Lessons in Electricity and Magnetism” and became fascinated with Geissler and Crookes tubes and x-ray apparatus, all of which required vacuum to operate.

As a teenager, armed with some basic equipment that had been salvaged from a TV picture tube plant, he was able to pursue some vacuum projects, mainly in the area of pulsed plasma devices. At this time (late 1960s) about the only sources of practical technique were the John Strong’s “Procedures in Experimental Physics” and the wonderful “Scientific American” Amateur Scientist columns that featured the work of Franklin Lee and others. After the passing of the column’s editor, C. L. Stong, in 1976 there was a lapse in amateur oriented vacuum information.

In 1992, Steve decided to find out if there were other vacuum hobbyists out there and in that year he launched his publication as a quarterly journal. For the next 10 years there was a subscriber base of several hundred people, well in excess of what he had expected. In the late ‘90s he began a transition from print to web where most of the print content has been archived along with an expanding supply of new material. The Bell Jar has been awarded a place on the American Vacuum Society’s Vacuum Science & Technology Timeline: 1500-2007.

Professionally, Steve spent most of his career as an engineer and manager involved with semiconductor manufacturing process development. In 1995 he joined MKS Instruments, a supplier of vacuum process instrumentation and hardware, where he developed training courses along with a line of vacuum training equipment that is now in use by dozens of colleges around the world. He retired in 2009 and keeps busy writing a monthly vacuum column for Vacuum Technology & Coating magazine and has also been instrumental in the development of a new line of educational vacuum products for The Science Source, a manufacturer of school science supplies. Steve and his wife now reside in the small coastal town of Owl’s Head, Maine.

This entry was posted in Amateur Science, Best Practices, Education, Electricity, Physics, Projects, Research Tools, Tools and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to An Introduction to Vacuum Technology for the Amateur Scientist

  1. Reggie Smith says:

    It’s great to see Steve is back! I am a long time fan of the Bell Jar and definitely recommend for all amateur and professional scientists interested in getting into vacuum experimentation, glow discharges, plasma globes, or high-end stuff like X-rays.

Leave a Reply