Turbomolecular Pump Bearings: Extreme Bearings for Extreme Machines

This picture shows an electron microscope, one of the applications for turbomolecular pump bearings.

Turbomolecular pumps, or turbo pumps, are serious business. Their rotors spin at incredible speeds, sucking powerfully enough to create a high vacuum. Whether your turbomolecular pump generates vacuums to run an electron microscope or enable thin film deposition for computer chips or solar panels, you’ll need specialized, super-high-quality bearings to run it safely and consistently. Only the best will do. And when a bearing fails, you’ll need to replace it in a hurry before a stalled pump affects your research or your bottom line. Luckily, Alpine Bearing has teamed up with the world’s best bearing manufacturers to develop replacement bearings for both ball bearing and magnetic levitation (maglev) turbo molecular pumps.

Ball bearings for turbomolecular pumps

A good turbo pump ball bearing works quietly and quickly, letting your turbomolecular pump start almost the instant it’s turned on. Since turbomolecular pump rotors spin at between 24,000 and 90,000 RPM, their bearings must tolerate enormous physical forces and heat buildup from friction. They must be extremely stable in multiple directions, so their high speed doesn’t cause mechanical problems or tear them apart. They may also need to resist corrosive or hazardous gases. Some of these pumps, working in nuclear fusion research, even handle radioactive gases like tritium!

Only the highest quality ball bearings can handle the rigors of a turbomolecular pump. Alpine has multiple options in stock. Check out our inventory of turbo pump ball bearings. If you don’t see your pump model or size listed, contact one of our sales engineers at sales@alpinebearing.com. We’re constantly sourcing new bearing sizes.

Hybrid ceramic/magnetic bearings

Steel balls can only withstand so much speed and friction, and some turbomolecular pumps move gases that can contaminate bearing lubricants. For more demanding pumping scenarios, hybrid ceramic ball/magnetic levitation (maglev) bearings offer an alternative. Both ceramic balls and magnetic bearings can tolerate more speed and heat than steel. Magnetic bearings create almost no friction because of their levitating design, allowing them to last a long time with minimal maintenance. In a hybrid bearing for a turbomolecular pump, a lightweight ceramic bearing sits outside the high vacuum, where its lubricant is safer from contamination. The magnetic bearing is inside the high vacuum. It holds a safety bearing which stabilizes the shaft during radial shocks, keeping most vibration from reaching the pump’s housing.

During a power failure, the magnetic bearing stays active for several minutes as the pump’s rotational momentum provides power. If the power stays off, the safety bearing will slowly stop the pump’s rotors, helping prevent damage.

Need a new safety bearing for a maglev turbo pump? Alpine sells those! Contact our sales engineers at sales@alpinebearing.com to get more information or place an order.

Replacement bearings for turbomolecular pumps

We know your turbomolecular pumps are a critical element of your process. Don’t get stuck without the ability to draw a vacuum. If you need a new bearing for your pump, contact Alpine today. Our sales engineers have expert technical knowledge of turbo pumps. Plus, Alpine ships same-day, so you can get your pump up and running faster.

Forgetting your bearing terminology? Our glossary will help!

Photo by Logan Moreno Gutierrez on Unsplash