Vacuum is space devoid of matter. The word stems from the Latin adjective vacuus for "vacant" or "void". An approximation to such vacuum is a region with a gaseous pressure much less than atmospheric pressure. Physicists often discuss ideal test results that would occur in a perfect vacuum, which they sometimes simply call "vacuum" or free space, and use the term partial vacuum to refer to an actual imperfect vacuum as one might have in a laboratory or in space. In engineering and applied physics on the other hand, vacuum refers to any space in which the pressure is lower than atmospheric pressure. The Latin term in vacuo is used to describe an object that is surrounded by a vacuum.
The quality of a partial vacuum refers to how closely it approaches a perfect vacuum. Other things equal, lower gas pressure means higher-quality vacuum. For example, a typical vacuum cleaner produces enough suction to reduce air pressure by around 20%. Much higher-quality vacuums are possible. Ultra-high vacuum chambers, common in chemistry, physics, and engineering, operate below one trillionth (10−12) of atmospheric pressure (100 nPa), and can reach around 100 particles/cm3. Outer space is an even higher-quality vacuum, with the equivalent of just a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter on average in intergalactic space. According to modern understanding, even if all matter could be removed from a volume, it would still not be "empty" due to vacuum fluctuations, dark energy, transiting gamma rays, cosmic rays, neutrinos, and other phenomena in quantum physics. In the study of electromagnetism in the 19th century, vacuum was thought to be filled with a medium called aether. In modern particle physics, the vacuum state is considered the ground state of a field.
Vacuum has been a frequent topic of philosophical debate since ancient Greek times, but was not studied empirically until the 17th century. Evangelista Torricelli produced the first laboratory vacuum in 1643, and other experimental techniques were developed as a result of his theories of atmospheric pressure. A torricellian vacuum is created by filling a tall glass container closed at one end with mercury, and then inverting it in a bowl to contain the mercury (see below).
Vacuum became a valuable industrial tool in the 20th century with the introduction of incandescent light bulbs and vacuum tubes, and a wide array of vacuum technology has since become available. The recent development of human spaceflight has raised interest in the impact of vacuum on human health, and on life forms in general.
The word vacuum comes from Latin, meaning 'an empty space, void', noun use of neuter of vacuus, meaning "empty", related to vacare, meaning "be empty".
Historically, there has been much dispute over whether such a thing as a vacuum can exist. Ancient Greek philosophers debated the existence of a vacuum, or void, in the context of atomism, which posited void and atom as the fundamental explanatory elements of physics. Following Plato, even the abstract concept of a featureless void faced considerable skepticism: it could not be apprehended by the senses, it could not, itself, provide additional explanatory power beyond the physical volume with which it was commensurate and, by definition, it was quite literally nothing at all, which cannot rightly be said to exist. Aristotle believed that no void could occur naturally, because the denser surrounding material continuum would immediately fill any incipient rarity that might give rise to a void.
In his Physics, book IV, Aristotle offered numerous arguments against the void: for example, that motion through a medium which offered no impediment could continue ad infinitum, there being no reason that something would come to rest anywhere in particular. Although Lucretius argued for the existence of vacuum in the first century BC and Hero of Alexandria tried unsuccessfully to create an artificial vacuum in the first century AD, it was European scholars such as Roger Bacon, Blasius of Parma and Walter Burley in the 13th and 14th century who focused considerable attention on these issues. Eventually following Stoic physics in this instance, scholars from the 14th century onward increasingly departed from the Aristotelian perspective in favor of a supernatural void beyond the confines of the cosmos itself, a conclusion widely acknowledged by the 17th century, which helped to segregate natural and theological concerns.
Almost two thousand years after Plato, René Descartes also proposed a geometrically based alternative theory of atomism, without the problematic nothing–everything dichotomy of void and atom. Although Descartes agreed with the contemporary position, that a vacuum does not occur in nature, the success of his namesake coordinate system and more implicitly, the spatial–corporeal component of his metaphysics would come to define the philosophically modern notion of empty space as a quantified extension of volume. By the ancient definition however, directional information and magnitude were conceptually distinct.
In the medieval Middle Eastern world, the physicist and Islamic scholar, Al-Farabi (Alpharabius, 872–950), conducted a small experiment concerning the existence of vacuum, in which he investigated handheld plungers in water. He concluded that air's volume can expand to fill available space, and he suggested that the concept of perfect vacuum was incoherent. However, according to Nader El-Bizri, the physicist Ibn al-Haytham (Alhazen, 965–1039) and the Mu'tazili theologians disagreed with Aristotle and Al-Farabi, and they supported the existence of a void. Using geometry, Ibn al-Haytham mathematically demonstrated that place (al-makan) is the imagined three-dimensional void between the inner surfaces of a containing body. According to Ahmad Dallal, Abū Rayhān al-Bīrūnī also states that "there is no observable evidence that rules out the possibility of vacuum". The suction pump later appeared in Europe from the 15th century.
Medieval thought experiments into the idea of a vacuum considered whether a vacuum was present, if only for an instant, between two flat plates when they were rapidly separated. There was much discussion of whether the air moved in quickly enough as the plates were separated, or, as Walter Burley postulated, whether a 'celestial agent' prevented the vacuum arising. The commonly held view that nature abhorred a vacuum was called horror vacui. There was even speculation that even God could not create a vacuum if he wanted and the 1277 Paris condemnations of Bishop Etienne Tempier, which required there to be no restrictions on the powers of God, which led to the conclusion that God could create a vacuum if he so wished. Jean Buridan reported in the 14th century that teams of ten horses could not pull open bellows when the port was sealed.
The 17th century saw the first attempts to quantify measurements of partial vacuum. Evangelista Torricelli's mercury barometer of 1643 and Blaise Pascal's experiments both demonstrated a partial vacuum.
In 1654, Otto von Guericke invented the first vacuum pump and conducted his famous Magdeburg hemispheres experiment, showing that teams of horses could not separate two hemispheres from which the air had been partially evacuated. Robert Boyle improved Guericke's design and with the help of Robert Hooke further developed vacuum pump technology. Thereafter, research into the partial vacuum lapsed until 1850 when August Toepler invented the Toepler Pump and Heinrich Geissler invented the mercury displacement pump in 1855, achieving a partial vacuum of about 10 Pa (0.1 Torr). A number of electrical properties become observable at this vacuum level, which renewed interest in further research.
While outer space provides the most rarefied example of a naturally occurring partial vacuum, the heavens were originally thought to be seamlessly filled by a rigid indestructible material called aether. Borrowing somewhat from the pneuma of Stoic physics, aether came to be regarded as the rarefied air from which it took its name, (see Aether (mythology)). Early theories of light posited a ubiquitous terrestrial and celestial medium through which light propagated. Additionally, the concept informed Isaac Newton's explanations of both refraction and of radiant heat. 19th century experiments into this luminiferous aether attempted to detect a minute drag on the Earth's orbit. While the Earth does, in fact, move through a relatively dense medium in comparison to that of interstellar space, the drag is so minuscule that it could not be detected. In 1912, astronomer Henry Pickering commented: "While the interstellar absorbing medium may be simply the ether, [it] is characteristic of a gas, and free gaseous molecules are certainly there".
Later, in 1930, Paul Dirac proposed a model of the vacuum as an infinite sea of particles possessing negative energy, called the Dirac sea. This theory helped refine the predictions of his earlier formulated Dirac equation, and successfully predicted the existence of the positron, confirmed two years later. Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle formulated in 1927, predict a fundamental limit within which instantaneous position and momentum, or energy and time can be measured. This has far reaching consequences on the "emptiness" of space between particles. In the late 20th century, so-called virtual particles that arise spontaneously from empty space were confirmed.
The strictest criterion to define a vacuum is a region of space and time where all the components of the stress–energy tensor are zero. This means that this region is devoid of energy and momentum, and by consequence, it must be empty of particles and other physical fields (such as electromagnetism) that contain energy and momentum.
In general relativity, a vanishing stress-energy tensor implies, through Einstein field equations, the vanishing of all the components of the Ricci tensor. Vacuum does not mean that the curvature of space-time is necessarily flat: the gravitational field can still produce curvature in a vacuum in the form of tidal forces and gravitational waves (technically, these phenomena are the components of the Weyl tensor). The black hole (with zero electric charge) is an elegant example of a region completely "filled" with vacuum, but still showing a strong curvature.
In classical electromagnetism, the vacuum of free space, or sometimes just free space or perfect vacuum, is a standard reference medium for electromagnetic effects. Some authors refer to this reference medium as classical vacuum, a terminology intended to separate this concept from QED vacuum or QCD vacuum, where vacuum fluctuations can produce transient virtual particle densities and a relative permittivity and relative permeability that are not identically unity.
In the theory of classical electromagnetism, free space has the following properties:
In quantum mechanics and quantum field theory, the vacuum is defined as the state (that is, the solution to the equations of the theory) with the lowest possible energy (the ground state of the Hilbert space). In quantum electrodynamics this vacuum is referred to as 'QED vacuum' to distinguish it from the vacuum of quantum chromodynamics, denoted as QCD vacuum. QED vacuum is a state with no matter particles (hence the name), and also no photons. As described above, this state is impossible to achieve experimentally. (Even if every matter particle could somehow be removed from a volume, it would be impossible to eliminate all the blackbody photons.) Nonetheless, it provides a good model for realizable vacuum, and agrees with a number of experimental observations as described next.
QED vacuum has interesting and complex properties. In QED vacuum, the electric and magnetic fields have zero average values, but their variances are not zero. As a result, QED vacuum contains vacuum fluctuations (virtual particles that hop into and out of existence), and a finite energy called vacuum energy. Vacuum fluctuations are an essential and ubiquitous part of quantum field theory. Some experimentally verified effects of vacuum fluctuations include spontaneous emission and the Lamb shift. Coulomb's law and the electric potential in vacuum near an electric charge are modified.
Theoretically, in QCD multiple vacuum states can coexist. The starting and ending of cosmological inflation is thought to have arisen from transitions between different vacuum states. For theories obtained by quantization of a classical theory, each stationary point of the energy in the configuration space gives rise to a single vacuum. String theory is believed to have a huge number of vacua – the so-called string theory landscape.
Outer space has very low density and pressure, and is the closest physical approximation of a perfect vacuum. But no vacuum is truly perfect, not even in interstellar space, where there are still a few hydrogen atoms per cubic meter.
Stars, planets, and moons keep their atmospheres by gravitational attraction, and as such, atmospheres have no clearly delineated boundary: the density of atmospheric gas simply decreases with distance from the object. The Earth's atmospheric pressure drops to about 3.2×10−2 Pa at 100 kilometres (62 mi) of altitude, the Kármán line, which is a common definition of the boundary with outer space. Beyond this line, isotropic gas pressure rapidly becomes insignificant when compared to radiation pressure from the Sun and the dynamic pressure of the solar winds, so the definition of pressure becomes difficult to interpret. The thermosphere in this range has large gradients of pressure, temperature and composition, and varies greatly due to space weather. Astrophysicists prefer to use number density to describe these environments, in units of particles per cubic centimetre.
But although it meets the definition of outer space, the atmospheric density within the first few hundred kilometers above the Kármán line is still sufficient to produce significant drag on satellites. Most artificial satellites operate in this region called low Earth orbit and must fire their engines every few days to maintain orbit. The drag here is low enough that it could theoretically be overcome by radiation pressure on solar sails, a proposed propulsion system for interplanetary travel. Planets are too massive for their trajectories to be significantly affected by these forces, although their atmospheres are eroded by the solar winds.
All of the observable universe is filled with large numbers of photons, the so-called cosmic background radiation, and quite likely a correspondingly large number of neutrinos. The current temperature of this radiation is about 3 K, or −270 degrees Celsius or −454 degrees Fahrenheit.
The quality of a vacuum is indicated by the amount of matter remaining in the system, so that a high quality vacuum is one with very little matter left in it. Vacuum is primarily measured by its absolute pressure, but a complete characterization requires further parameters, such as temperature and chemical composition. One of the most important parameters is the mean free path (MFP) of residual gases, which indicates the average distance that molecules will travel between collisions with each other. As the gas density decreases, the MFP increases, and when the MFP is longer than the chamber, pump, spacecraft, or other objects present, the continuum assumptions of fluid mechanics do not apply. This vacuum state is called high vacuum, and the study of fluid flows in this regime is called particle gas dynamics. The MFP of air at atmospheric pressure is very short, 70 nm, but at 100 mPa (~1×10−3 Torr) the MFP of room temperature air is roughly 100 mm, which is on the order of everyday objects such as vacuum tubes. The Crookes radiometer turns when the MFP is larger than the size of the vanes.
Vacuum quality is subdivided into ranges according to the technology required to achieve it or measure it. These ranges do not have universally agreed definitions, but a typical distribution is shown in the following table. As we travel into orbit, outer space and ultimately intergalactic space, the pressure varies by several orders of magnitude.
|Low vacuum||760 to 25||1×105 to 3×103||9.87×10−1 to 3×10−2|
|Medium vacuum||25 to 1×10−3||3×103 to 1×10−1||3×10−2 to 9.87×10−7|
|High vacuum||1×10−3 to 1×10−9||1×10−1 to 1×10−7||9.87×10−7 to 9.87×10−13|
|Ultra high vacuum||1×10−9 to 1×10−12||1×10−7 to 1×10−10||9.87×10−13 to 9.87×10−16|
|Extremely high vacuum||< 1×10−12||< 1×10−10||< 9.87×10−16|
|Outer space||1×10−6 to < 1×10−17||1×10−4 to < 3×10−15||9.87×10−10 to < 2.96×10−20|
Vacuum is measured in units of pressure, typically as a subtraction relative to ambient atmospheric pressure on Earth. But the amount of relative measurable vacuum varies with local conditions. On the surface of Jupiter, where ground level atmospheric pressure is much higher than on Earth, much higher relative vacuum readings would be possible. On the surface of the moon with almost no atmosphere, it would be extremely difficult to create a measurable vacuum relative to the local environment.
Similarly, much higher than normal relative vacuum readings are possible deep in the Earth's ocean. A submarine maintaining an internal pressure of 1 atmosphere submerged to a depth of 10 atmospheres (98 metres; a 9.8 metre column of seawater has the equivalent weight of 1 atm) is effectively a vacuum chamber keeping out the crushing exterior water pressures, though the 1 atm inside the submarine would not normally be considered a vacuum.
Therefore, to properly understand the following discussions of vacuum measurement, it is important that the reader assumes the relative measurements are being done on Earth at sea level, at exactly 1 atmosphere of ambient atmospheric pressure.
The SI unit of pressure is the pascal (symbol Pa), but vacuum is often measured in torrs, named for Torricelli, an early Italian physicist (1608–1647). A torr is equal to the displacement of a millimeter of mercury (mmHg) in a manometer with 1 torr equaling 133.3223684 pascals above absolute zero pressure. Vacuum is often also measured on the barometric scale or as a percentage of atmospheric pressure in bars or atmospheres. Low vacuum is often measured in millimeters of mercury (mmHg) or pascals (Pa) below standard atmospheric pressure. "Below atmospheric" means that the absolute pressure is equal to the current atmospheric pressure.
In other words, most low vacuum gauges that read, for example 50.79 Torr. Many inexpensive low vacuum gauges have a margin of error and may report a vacuum of 0 Torr but in practice this generally requires a two-stage rotary vane or other medium type of vacuum pump to go much beyond (lower than) 1 torr.
Many devices are used to measure the pressure in a vacuum, depending on what range of vacuum is needed.
Hydrostatic gauges (such as the mercury column manometer) consist of a vertical column of liquid in a tube whose ends are exposed to different pressures. The column will rise or fall until its weight is in equilibrium with the pressure differential between the two ends of the tube. The simplest design is a closed-end U-shaped tube, one side of which is connected to the region of interest. Any fluid can be used, but mercury is preferred for its high density and low vapour pressure. Simple hydrostatic gauges can measure pressures ranging from 1 torr (100 Pa) to above atmospheric. An important variation is the McLeod gauge which isolates a known volume of vacuum and compresses it to multiply the height variation of the liquid column. The McLeod gauge can measure vacuums as high as 10−6 torr (0.1 mPa), which is the lowest direct measurement of pressure that is possible with current technology. Other vacuum gauges can measure lower pressures, but only indirectly by measurement of other pressure-controlled properties. These indirect measurements must be calibrated via a direct measurement, most commonly a McLeod gauge.
The kenotometer is a particular type of hydrostatic gauge, typically used in power plants using steam turbines. The kenotometer measures the vacuum in the steam space of the condenser, that is, the exhaust of the last stage of the turbine.
Mechanical or elastic gauges depend on a Bourdon tube, diaphragm, or capsule, usually made of metal, which will change shape in response to the pressure of the region in question. A variation on this idea is the capacitance manometer, in which the diaphragm makes up a part of a capacitor. A change in pressure leads to the flexure of the diaphragm, which results in a change in capacitance. These gauges are effective from 103 torr to 10−4 torr, and beyond.
Thermal conductivity gauges rely on the fact that the ability of a gas to conduct heat decreases with pressure. In this type of gauge, a wire filament is heated by running current through it. A thermocouple or Resistance Temperature Detector (RTD) can then be used to measure the temperature of the filament. This temperature is dependent on the rate at which the filament loses heat to the surrounding gas, and therefore on the thermal conductivity. A common variant is the Pirani gauge which uses a single platinum filament as both the heated element and RTD. These gauges are accurate from 10 torr to 10−3 torr, but they are sensitive to the chemical composition of the gases being measured.
Ionization gauges are used in ultrahigh vacuum. They come in two types: hot cathode and cold cathode. In the hot cathode version an electrically heated filament produces an electron beam. The electrons travel through the gauge and ionize gas molecules around them. The resulting ions are collected at a negative electrode. The current depends on the number of ions, which depends on the pressure in the gauge. Hot cathode gauges are accurate from 10−3 torr to 10−10 torr. The principle behind cold cathode version is the same, except that electrons are produced in a discharge created by a high voltage electrical discharge. Cold cathode gauges are accurate from 10−2 torr to 10−9 torr. Ionization gauge calibration is very sensitive to construction geometry, chemical composition of gases being measured, corrosion and surface deposits. Their calibration can be invalidated by activation at atmospheric pressure or low vacuum. The composition of gases at high vacuums will usually be unpredictable, so a mass spectrometer must be used in conjunction with the ionization gauge for accurate measurement.
Vacuum is useful in a variety of processes and devices. Its first widespread use was in the incandescent light bulb to protect the filament from chemical degradation. The chemical inertness produced by a vacuum is also useful for electron beam welding, cold welding, vacuum packing and vacuum frying. Ultra-high vacuum is used in the study of atomically clean substrates, as only a very good vacuum preserves atomic-scale clean surfaces for a reasonably long time (on the order of minutes to days). High to ultra-high vacuum removes the obstruction of air, allowing particle beams to deposit or remove materials without contamination. This is the principle behind chemical vapor deposition, physical vapor deposition, and dry etching which are essential to the fabrication of semiconductors and optical coatings, and to surface science. The reduction of convection provides the thermal insulation of thermos bottles. Deep vacuum lowers the boiling point of liquids and promotes low temperature outgassing which is used in freeze drying, adhesive preparation, distillation, metallurgy, and process purging. The electrical properties of vacuum make electron microscopes and vacuum tubes possible, including cathode ray tubes. Vacuum interrupters are used in electrical switchgear. Vacuum arc processes are industrially important for production of certain grades of steel or high purity materials. The elimination of air friction is useful for flywheel energy storage and ultracentrifuges.
Vacuums are commonly used to produce suction, which has an even wider variety of applications. The Newcomen steam engine used vacuum instead of pressure to drive a piston. In the 19th century, vacuum was used for traction on Isambard Kingdom Brunel's experimental atmospheric railway. Vacuum brakes were once widely used on trains in the UK but, except on heritage railways, they have been replaced by air brakes.
Manifold vacuum can be used to drive accessories on automobiles. The best-known application is the vacuum servo, used to provide power assistance for the brakes. Obsolete applications include vacuum-driven windscreen wipers and Autovac fuel pumps. Some aircraft instruments (Attitude Indicator (AI) and the Heading Indicator (HI)) are typically vacuum-powered, as protection against loss of all (electrically powered) instruments, since early aircraft often did not have electrical systems, and since there are two readily available sources of vacuum on a moving aircraft, the engine and an external venturi. Vacuum induction melting uses electromagnetic induction within a vacuum.
Maintaining a vacuum in the Condenser is an important aspect of the efficient operation of steam turbines. A steam jet ejector or liquid ring vacuum pump is used for this purpose. The typical vacuum maintained in the Condenser steam space at the exhaust of the turbine (also called Condenser Backpressure) is in the range 5 to 15 kPa (absolute), depending on the type of condenser and the ambient conditions.
Evaporation and sublimation into a vacuum is called outgassing. All materials, solid or liquid, have a small vapour pressure, and their outgassing becomes important when the vacuum pressure falls below this vapour pressure. Outgassing has the same effect as a leak and can limit the achievable vacuum. Outgassing products may condense on nearby colder surfaces, which can be troublesome if they obscure optical instruments or react with other materials. This is of great concern to space missions, where an obscured telescope or solar cell can ruin an expensive mission.
The most prevalent outgassing product in vacuum systems is water absorbed by chamber materials. It can be reduced by desiccating or baking the chamber, and removing absorbent materials. Outgassed water can condense in the oil of rotary vane pumps and reduce their net speed drastically if gas ballasting is not used. High vacuum systems must be clean and free of organic matter to minimize outgassing.
Ultra-high vacuum systems are usually baked, preferably under vacuum, to temporarily raise the vapour pressure of all outgassing materials and boil them off. Once the bulk of the outgassing materials are boiled off and evacuated, the system may be cooled to lower vapour pressures and minimize residual outgassing during actual operation. Some systems are cooled well below room temperature by liquid nitrogen to shut down residual outgassing and simultaneously cryopump the system.
Fluids cannot generally be pulled, so a vacuum cannot be created by suction. Suction can spread and dilute a vacuum by letting a higher pressure push fluids into it, but the vacuum has to be created first before suction can occur. The easiest way to create an artificial vacuum is to expand the volume of a container. For example, the diaphragm muscle expands the chest cavity, which causes the volume of the lungs to increase. This expansion reduces the pressure and creates a partial vacuum, which is soon filled by air pushed in by atmospheric pressure.
To continue evacuating a chamber indefinitely without requiring infinite growth, a compartment of the vacuum can be repeatedly closed off, exhausted, and expanded again. This is the principle behind positive displacement pumps, like the manual water pump for example. Inside the pump, a mechanism expands a small sealed cavity to create a vacuum. Because of the pressure differential, some fluid from the chamber (or the well, in our example) is pushed into the pump's small cavity. The pump's cavity is then sealed from the chamber, opened to the atmosphere, and squeezed back to a minute size.
The above explanation is merely a simple introduction to vacuum pumping, and is not representative of the entire range of pumps in use. Many variations of the positive displacement pump have been developed, and many other pump designs rely on fundamentally different principles. Momentum transfer pumps, which bear some similarities to dynamic pumps used at higher pressures, can achieve much higher quality vacuums than positive displacement pumps. Entrapment pumps can capture gases in a solid or absorbed state, often with no moving parts, no seals and no vibration. None of these pumps are universal; each type has important performance limitations. They all share a difficulty in pumping low molecular weight gases, especially hydrogen, helium, and neon.
The lowest pressure that can be attained in a system is also dependent on many things other than the nature of the pumps. Multiple pumps may be connected in series, called stages, to achieve higher vacuums. The choice of seals, chamber geometry, materials, and pump-down procedures will all have an impact. Collectively, these are called vacuum technique. And sometimes, the final pressure is not the only relevant characteristic. Pumping systems differ in oil contamination, vibration, preferential pumping of certain gases, pump-down speeds, intermittent duty cycle, reliability, or tolerance to high leakage rates.
In ultra high vacuum systems, some very "odd" leakage paths and outgassing sources must be considered. The water absorption of aluminium and palladium becomes an unacceptable source of outgassing, and even the adsorptivity of hard metals such as stainless steel or titanium must be considered. Some oils and greases will boil off in extreme vacuums. The permeability of the metallic chamber walls may have to be considered, and the grain direction of the metallic flanges should be parallel to the flange face.
The lowest pressures currently achievable in laboratory are about 10−13 torr (13 pPa). However, pressures as low as 5×10−17 Torr (6.7 fPa) have been indirectly measured in a 4 K cryogenic vacuum system. This corresponds to ≈100 particles/cm3.
Humans and animals exposed to vacuum will lose consciousness after a few seconds and die of hypoxia within minutes, but the symptoms are not nearly as graphic as commonly depicted in media and popular culture. The reduction in pressure lowers the temperature at which blood and other body fluids boil, but the elastic pressure of blood vessels ensures that this boiling point remains above the internal body temperature of 37 °C. Although the blood will not boil, the formation of gas bubbles in bodily fluids at reduced pressures, known as ebullism, is still a concern. The gas may bloat the body to twice its normal size and slow circulation, but tissues are elastic and porous enough to prevent rupture. Swelling and ebullism can be restrained by containment in a flight suit. Shuttle astronauts wore a fitted elastic garment called the Crew Altitude Protection Suit (CAPS) which prevents ebullism at pressures as low as 2 kPa (15 Torr). Rapid boiling will cool the skin and create frost, particularly in the mouth, but this is not a significant hazard.
Animal experiments show that rapid and complete recovery is normal for exposures shorter than 90 seconds, while longer full-body exposures are fatal and resuscitation has never been successful. A study by NASA on eight chimpanzees found all of them survived two and a half minute exposures to vacuum. There is only a limited amount of data available from human accidents, but it is consistent with animal data. Limbs may be exposed for much longer if breathing is not impaired. Robert Boyle was the first to show in 1660 that vacuum is lethal to small animals.
Cold or oxygen-rich atmospheres can sustain life at pressures much lower than atmospheric, as long as the density of oxygen is similar to that of standard sea-level atmosphere. The colder air temperatures found at altitudes of up to 3 km generally compensate for the lower pressures there. Above this altitude, oxygen enrichment is necessary to prevent altitude sickness in humans that did not undergo prior acclimatization, and spacesuits are necessary to prevent ebullism above 19 km. Most spacesuits use only 20 kPa (150 Torr) of pure oxygen. This pressure is high enough to prevent ebullism, but decompression sickness and gas embolisms can still occur if decompression rates are not managed.
Rapid decompression can be much more dangerous than vacuum exposure itself. Even if the victim does not hold his or her breath, venting through the windpipe may be too slow to prevent the fatal rupture of the delicate alveoli of the lungs. Eardrums and sinuses may be ruptured by rapid decompression, soft tissues may bruise and seep blood, and the stress of shock will accelerate oxygen consumption leading to hypoxia. Injuries caused by rapid decompression are called barotrauma. A pressure drop of 13 kPa (100 Torr), which produces no symptoms if it is gradual, may be fatal if it occurs suddenly.
|Pressure (Pa or kPa)||Pressure (Torr, atm)||Mean Free Path||Molecules per cm3|
|Standard atmosphere, for comparison||101.325 kPa||760 torrs (1.00 atm)||66 nm||2.5×1019|
|Intense hurricane||approx. 87 to 95 kPa||650 to 710|
|Vacuum cleaner||approximately 80 kPa||600||70 nm||1019|
|Steam turbine exhaust (Condenser backpressure)||9 kPa|
|liquid ring vacuum pump||approximately 3.2 kPa||24 torrs (0.032 atm)||1.75 μm||1018|
|Mars atmosphere||1.155 kPa to 0.03 kPa (mean 0.6 kPa)||8.66 to 0.23 torrs (0.01139 to 0.00030 atm)|
|freeze drying||100 to 10||1 to 0.1||100 μm to 1 mm||1016 to 1015|
|Incandescent light bulb||10 to 1||0.1 to 0.01 torrs (0.000132 to 1.3×10−5 atm)||1 mm to 1 cm||1015 to 1014|
|Thermos bottle||1 to 0.01 ||1×10−2 to 1×10−4 torrs (1.316×10−5 to 1.3×10−7 atm)||1 cm to 1 m||1014 to 1012|
|Earth thermosphere||1 Pa to 1×10−7||10−2 to 10−9||1 cm to 100 km||1014 to 107|
|Vacuum tube||1×10−5 to 1×10−8||10−7 to 10−10||1 to 1,000 km||109 to 106|
|Cryopumped MBE chamber||1×10−7 to 1×10−9||10−9 to 10−11||100 to 10,000 km||107 to 105|
|Pressure on the Moon||approximately 1×10−9||10−11||10,000 km||4×105|
...deals with the quantum vacuum where, in contrast to the classical vacuum, radiation has properties, in particular, fluctuations, with which one can associate physical effects.
Returning to the vacuum of a relativistic field theory, we find that both paramagnetic and diamagnetic contributions are present.QCD vacuum is paramagnetic, while QED vacuum is diamagnetic. See Carlos A. Bertulani (2007). Nuclear physics in a nutshell. Princeton University Press. p. 26. ISBN 978-0-691-12505-3.
The fundamental state of minimum energy, the vacuum, is not unique and there are a continuum of degenerate states that altogether respect the symmetry...
A composite material (also called a composition material or shortened to composite, which is the common name) is a material made from two or more constituent materials with significantly different physical or chemical properties that, when combined, produce a material with characteristics different from the individual components. The individual components remain separate and distinct within the finished structure, differentiating composites from mixtures and solid solutions.The new material may be preferred for many reasons:
common examples include materials which are stronger, lighter, or less expensive when compared to traditional materials.
More recently, researchers have also begun to actively include sensing, actuation, computation and communication into composites, which are known as Robotic Materials.Typical engineered composite materials include:
Reinforced concrete and masonry
Composite wood such as plywood
Reinforced plastics, such as fibre-reinforced polymer or fiberglass
Ceramic matrix composites (composite ceramic and metal matrices)
Metal matrix composites
and other Advanced composite materialsComposite materials are generally used for buildings, bridges, and structures such as boat hulls, swimming pool panels, racing car bodies, shower stalls, bathtubs, storage tanks, imitation granite and cultured marble sinks and countertops.
The most advanced examples perform routinely on spacecraft and aircraft in demanding environments.Distillation
Distillation is the process of separating the components or substances from a liquid mixture by using selective boiling and condensation. Distillation may result in essentially complete separation (nearly pure components), or it may be a partial separation that increases the concentration of selected components in the mixture. In either case, the process exploits differences in the volatility of the mixture's components. In industrial chemistry, distillation is a unit operation of practically universal importance, but it is a physical separation process, not a chemical reaction.
Distillation has many applications. For example:
Distillation of fermented products produces distilled beverages with a high alcohol content or separates out other fermentation products of commercial value.
Distillation is an effective and traditional method of desalination.
In the fossil fuel industry, oil stabilization is a form of partial distillation that reduces vapor pressure of crude oil, thereby making it safe for storage and transport as well as reducing the atmospheric emissions of volatile hydrocarbons. In midstream operations at oil refineries, distillation is a major class of operation for transforming crude oil into fuels and chemical feed stocks.
Cryogenic distillation leads to the separation of air into its components – notably oxygen, nitrogen, and argon – for industrial use.
In the field of industrial chemistry, large amounts of crude liquid products of chemical synthesis are distilled to separate them, either from other products, from impurities, or from unreacted starting materials.An installation used for distillation, especially of distilled beverages, is called a distillery. The distillation equipment at a distillery is a still.Electronics
Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter. The identification of the electron in 1897, along with the invention of the vacuum tube, which could amplify and rectify small electrical signals, inaugurated the field of electronics and the electron age.Electronics deals with electrical circuits that involve active electrical components such as vacuum tubes, transistors, diodes, integrated circuits, optoelectronics, and sensors, associated passive electrical components, and interconnection technologies. Commonly, electronic devices contain circuitry consisting primarily or exclusively of active semiconductors supplemented with passive elements; such a circuit is described as an electronic circuit.
The nonlinear behaviour of active components and their ability to control electron flows makes amplification of weak signals possible. Electronics is widely used in information processing, telecommunication, and signal processing. The ability of electronic devices to act as switches makes digital information-processing possible. Interconnection technologies such as circuit boards, electronics packaging technology, and other varied forms of communication infrastructure complete circuit functionality and transform the mixed components into a regular working system.
Electrical and electromechanical science and technology deals with the generation, distribution, switching, storage, and conversion of electrical energy to and from other energy forms (using wires, motors, generators, batteries, switches, relays, transformers, resistors, and other passive components). This distinction started around 1906 with the invention by Lee De Forest of the triode, which made electrical amplification of weak radio signals and audio signals possible with a non-mechanical device. Until 1950 this field was called "radio technology" because its principal application was the design and theory of radio transmitters, receivers, and vacuum tubes.
As of 2018 most electronic devices use semiconductor components to perform electron control. The study of semiconductor devices and related technology is considered a branch of solid-state physics, whereas the design and construction of electronic circuits to solve practical problems come under electronics engineering. This article focuses on engineering aspects of electronics.Inch of mercury
Inch of mercury (inHg and ″Hg) is a unit of measurement for pressure. It is still used for barometric pressure in weather reports, refrigeration and aviation in the United States.
It is the pressure exerted by a column of mercury of 1 inch (25.4 mm) in height at the standard acceleration of gravity. Conversion to metric units depends on the temperature of mercury, and hence its density; typical conversion factors are:
In older literature, an "inch of mercury" is based on the height of a column of mercury at 60 °F (15.6 °C).
1 inHg60 °F = 3376.85 PaIn English units: 1 inHg60 °F = 0.489 771 psi, or 2.041 771 inHg60 °F = 1 psi.Mobil
Mobil, previously known as the Socony-Vacuum Oil Company, is a major American oil company which merged with Exxon in 1999 to form a parent company called ExxonMobil. It was previously one of the Seven Sisters which dominated the global petroleum industry from the mid-1940s until the 1970s. Today, Mobil continues as a major brand name within the combined company, as well as still being a gas station sometimes paired with its own store or On the Run. The former Mobil headquarters in Fairfax County, Virginia, were used as ExxonMobil's downstream headquarters until 2015 when ExxonMobil consolidated employees into a new corporate campus in Spring, Texas.Permeability (electromagnetism)
In electromagnetism, permeability is the measure of the ability of a material to support the formation of a magnetic field within itself otherwise known as distributed inductance in Transmission Line Theory. Hence, it is the degree of magnetization that a material obtains in response to an applied magnetic field. Magnetic permeability is typically represented by the (italicized) Greek letter µ. The term was coined in September 1885 by Oliver Heaviside. The reciprocal of magnetic permeability is magnetic reluctivity.
In SI units, permeability is measured in henries per meter (H/m), or equivalently in newtons (kg⋅m/s2) per ampere squared (N·A−2). The permeability constant (µ0), also known as the magnetic constant or the permeability of free space, is a measure of the amount of resistance encountered when forming a magnetic field in a classical vacuum. The magnetic constant has the exact (defined) value (µ0 = 4π × 10−7 H·m−1 ≈ 12.57 × 10−7 )
In the SI system which is going into force in 2019, this value needs to be determined experimentally; 4π × 1.000 000 000 82 (20) 10−7 H·m−1 is a recently measured value in the new system. It will be proportional to the dimensionless fine-structure constant with no other dependencies.
A closely related property of materials is magnetic susceptibility, which is a dimensionless proportionality factor that indicates the degree of magnetization of a material in response to an applied magnetic field.Pressure measurement
Pressure measurement is the analysis of an applied force by a fluid (liquid or gas) on a surface. Pressure is typically measured in units of force per unit of surface area. Many techniques have been developed for the measurement of pressure and vacuum. Instruments used to measure and display pressure in an integral unit are called pressure gauges or vacuum gauges. A manometer (not to be confused with nanometer) is a good example, as it uses a column of liquid to both measure and indicate pressure. Likewise the widely used Bourdon gauge is a mechanical device, which both measures and indicates and is probably the best known type of gauge.
A vacuum gauge is a pressure gauge used to measure pressures lower than the ambient atmospheric pressure, which is set as the zero point, in negative values (e.g.: −15 psig or −760 mmHg equals total vacuum). Most gauges measure pressure relative to atmospheric pressure as the zero point, so this form of reading is simply referred to as "gauge pressure". However, anything greater than total vacuum is technically a form of pressure. For very accurate readings, especially at very low pressures, a gauge that uses total vacuum as the zero point may be used, giving pressure readings in an absolute scale.
Other methods of pressure measurement involve sensors that can transmit the pressure reading to a remote indicator or control system (telemetry).Pyrolysis
Pyrolysis is the thermal decomposition of materials at elevated temperatures in an inert atmosphere. It involves the change of chemical composition and is irreversible. The word is coined from the Greek-derived elements pyro "fire" and lysis "separating".
Pyrolysis is most commonly used to the treatment of organic materials. It is one of the processes involved in charring wood. In general, pyrolysis of organic substances produces volatile products and leaves a solid residue enriched in carbon, char. Extreme pyrolysis, which leaves mostly carbon as the residue, is called carbonization.
The process is used heavily in the chemical industry, for example, to produce ethylene, many forms of carbon, and other chemicals from petroleum, coal, and even wood, to produce coke from coal. Aspirational applications of pyrolysis would convert biomass into syngas and biochar, waste plastics back into usable oil, or waste into safely disposable substances.Quantum fluctuation
In quantum physics, a quantum fluctuation (or vacuum state fluctuation or vacuum fluctuation) is the temporary change in the amount of energy in a point in space, as explained in Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle.
This allows the creation of particle-antiparticle pairs of virtual particles. The effects of these particles are measurable, for example, in the effective charge of the electron, different from its "naked" charge.
Quantum fluctuations may have been very important in the origin of the structure of the universe: according to the model of expansive inflation the ones that existed when inflation began were amplified and formed the seed of all current observed structure. Vacuum energy may also be responsible for the current accelerating expansion of the universe (cosmological constant).
According to one formulation of the principle, energy and time can be related by the relation
In the modern view, energy is always conserved, but because the particle number operator does not commute with a field's Hamiltonian or energy operator, the field's lowest-energy or ground state, often called the vacuum state, is not, as one might expect from that name, a state with no particles, but rather a quantum superposition of particle number eigenstates with 0, 1, 2...etc. particles.Speed of light
The speed of light in vacuum, commonly denoted c, is a universal physical constant important in many areas of physics. Its exact value is 299,792,458 metres per second (approximately 300,000 km/s (186,000 mi/s)). It is exact because by international agreement a metre is defined to be the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299792458 second. According to special relativity, c is the maximum speed at which all conventional matter and hence all known forms of information in the universe can travel. Though this speed is most commonly associated with light, it is in fact the speed at which all massless particles and changes of the associated fields travel in vacuum (including electromagnetic radiation and gravitational waves). Such particles and waves travel at c regardless of the motion of the source or the inertial reference frame of the observer. In the special and general theories of relativity, c interrelates space and time, and also appears in the famous equation of mass–energy equivalence E = mc2.The speed at which light propagates through transparent materials, such as glass or air, is less than c; similarly, the speed of electromagnetic waves in wire cables is slower than c. The ratio between c and the speed v at which light travels in a material is called the refractive index n of the material (n = c / v). For example, for visible light the refractive index of glass is typically around 1.5, meaning that light in glass travels at c / 1.5 ≈ 200,000 km/s (124,000 mi/s); the refractive index of air for visible light is about 1.0003, so the speed of light in air is about 299,700 km/s (186,220 mi/s), which is about 90 km/s (56 mi/s) slower than c.
For many practical purposes, light and other electromagnetic waves will appear to propagate instantaneously, but for long distances and very sensitive measurements, their finite speed has noticeable effects. In communicating with distant space probes, it can take minutes to hours for a message to get from Earth to the spacecraft, or vice versa. The light seen from stars left them many years ago, allowing the study of the history of the universe by looking at distant objects. The finite speed of light also limits the theoretical maximum speed of computers, since information must be sent within the computer from chip to chip. The speed of light can be used with time of flight measurements to measure large distances to high precision.
Ole Rømer first demonstrated in 1676 that light travels at a finite speed (as opposed to instantaneously) by studying the apparent motion of Jupiter's moon Io. In 1865, James Clerk Maxwell proposed that light was an electromagnetic wave, and therefore travelled at the speed c appearing in his theory of electromagnetism. In 1905, Albert Einstein postulated that the speed of light c with respect to any inertial frame is a constant and is independent of the motion of the light source. He explored the consequences of that postulate by deriving the theory of relativity and in doing so showed that the parameter c had relevance outside of the context of light and electromagnetism.
After centuries of increasingly precise measurements, in 1975 the speed of light was known to be 299792458 m/s (983571056 ft/s; 186282.397 mi/s) with a measurement uncertainty of 4 parts per billion. In 1983, the metre was redefined in the International System of Units (SI) as the distance travelled by light in vacuum in 1/299792458 of a second.Sublimation (phase transition)
Sublimation is the transition of a substance directly from the solid to the gas phase, without passing through the intermediate liquid phase. Sublimation is an endothermic process that occurs at temperatures and pressures below a substance's triple point in its phase diagram, which corresponds to the lowest pressure at which the substance can exist as a liquid. The reverse process of sublimation is deposition or desublimation, in which a substance passes directly from a gas to a solid phase. Sublimation has also been used as a generic term to describe a solid-to-gas transition (sublimation) followed by a gas-to-solid transition (deposition). While a transition from liquid to gas is described as evaporation if it occurs below the boiling point of the liquid, and as boiling if it occurs at the boiling point, there is no such distinction within the solid-to-gas transition, which is always described as sublimation.
At normal pressures, most chemical compounds and elements possess three different states at different temperatures. In these cases, the transition from the solid to the gaseous state requires an intermediate liquid state. The pressure referred to is the partial pressure of the substance, not the total (e.g. atmospheric) pressure of the entire system. So, all solids that possess an appreciable vapour pressure at a certain temperature usually can sublime in air (e.g. water ice just below 0 °C). For some substances, such as carbon and arsenic, sublimation is much easier than evaporation from the melt, because the pressure of their triple point is very high, and it is difficult to obtain them as liquids.
The term sublimation refers to a physical change of state and is not used to describe the transformation of a solid to a gas in a chemical reaction. For example, the dissociation on heating of solid ammonium chloride into hydrogen chloride and ammonia is not sublimation but a chemical reaction. Similarly the combustion of candles, containing paraffin wax, to carbon dioxide and water vapor is not sublimation but a chemical reaction with oxygen.
Sublimation is caused by the absorption of heat which provides enough energy for some molecules to overcome the attractive forces of their neighbors and escape into the vapor phase. Since the process requires additional energy, it is an endothermic change. The enthalpy of sublimation (also called heat of sublimation) can be calculated by adding the enthalpy of fusion and the enthalpy of vaporization.Ultraviolet
Ultraviolet (UV) designates a band of the electromagnetic spectrum with wavelength from 10 nm to 400 nm, shorter than that of visible light but longer than X-rays. UV radiation is present in sunlight constituting about 10% of the total light output of the Sun. It is also produced by electric arcs and specialized lights, such as mercury-vapor lamps, tanning lamps, and black lights. Although long-wavelength ultraviolet is not considered an ionizing radiation because its photons lack the energy to ionize atoms, it can cause chemical reactions and causes many substances to glow or fluoresce. Consequently, the chemical and biological effects of UV are greater than simple heating effects, and many practical applications of UV radiation derive from its interactions with organic molecules.
Suntan and sunburn are familiar effects of over-exposure of the skin to UV, along with higher risk of skin cancer. Living things on dry land would be severely damaged by ultraviolet radiation from the Sun if most of it were not filtered out by the Earth's atmosphere. More-energetic, shorter-wavelength "extreme" UV below 121 nm ionizes air so strongly that it is absorbed before it reaches the ground.
Ultraviolet is also responsible for the formation of bone-strengthening vitamin D in most land vertebrates, including humans (specifically, UVB). The UV spectrum thus has effects both beneficial and harmful to human health.
Ultraviolet rays are invisible to all humans, although insects, birds, and some mammals can see near-UV.Vacuum aspiration
Vacuum or suction aspiration uses aspiration to remove uterine contents through the cervix. It may be used as a method of induced abortion, a therapeutic procedure used after miscarriage, or a procedure to obtain a sample for endometrial biopsy. The rate of infection is lower than any other surgical abortion procedure at 0.5%.Some sources may use the terms dilation and evacuation or "suction" dilation and curettage to refer to vacuum aspiration, although those terms are normally used to refer to distinct procedures.Vacuum cleaner
A vacuum cleaner, also known as a sweeper or hoover, is a device that uses an air pump (a centrifugal fan in all but some of the very oldest models), to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt from floors and from other surfaces such as upholstery and draperies.
The dirt is collected by either a dustbag or a cyclone for later disposal. Vacuum cleaners, which are used in homes as well as in industry, exist in a variety of sizes and models—small battery-powered hand-held devices, wheeled canister models for home use, domestic central vacuum cleaners, huge stationary industrial appliances that can handle several hundred litres of dust before being emptied, and self-propelled vacuum trucks for recovery of large spills or removal of contaminated soil. Specialized shop vacuums can be used to suck up both dust and liquids.Vacuum flask
A vacuum flask (also known as a Dewar flask, Dewar bottle or thermos) is an insulating storage vessel that greatly lengthens the time over which its contents remain hotter or cooler than the flask's surroundings. Invented by Sir James Dewar in 1892, the vacuum flask consists of two flasks, placed one within the other and joined at the neck. The gap between the two flasks is partially evacuated of air, creating a near-vacuum which significantly reduces heat transfer by conduction or convection.
Vacuum flasks are used domestically to keep beverages hot or cold for extended periods of time and for many purposes in industry.Vacuum permittivity
The physical constant ε0 (pronounced as “epsilon nought” or “epsilon zero”), commonly called the vacuum permittivity, permittivity of free space or electric constant or the distributed capacitance of the vacuum, is an ideal, (baseline) physical constant, which is the value of the absolute dielectric permittivity of classical vacuum. It has an exactly defined value that can be approximated as
It is the capability of the vacuum to permit electric field lines. This constant relates the units for electric charge to mechanical quantities such as length and force. For example, the force between two separated electric charges (in the vacuum of classical electromagnetism) is given by Coulomb's law:
The value of the constant fraction is approximately 9 × 109 N⋅m2⋅C−2, q1 and q2 are the charges, and r is the distance between them. Likewise, ε0 appears in Maxwell's equations, which describe the properties of electric and magnetic fields and electromagnetic radiation, and relate them to their sources.Vacuum state
In quantum field theory, the quantum vacuum state (also called the quantum vacuum or vacuum state) is the quantum state with the lowest possible energy. Generally, it contains no physical particles. Zero-point field is sometimes used as a synonym for the vacuum state of an individual quantized field.
According to present-day understanding of what is called the vacuum state or the quantum vacuum, it is "by no means a simple empty space". According to quantum mechanics, the vacuum state is not truly empty but instead contains fleeting electromagnetic waves and particles that pop into and out of existence.The QED vacuum of quantum electrodynamics (or QED) was the first vacuum of quantum field theory to be developed. QED originated in the 1930s, and in the late 1940s and early 1950s it was reformulated by Feynman, Tomonaga and Schwinger, who jointly received the Nobel prize for this work in 1965. Today the electromagnetic interactions and the weak interactions are unified in the theory of the electroweak interaction.
The Standard Model is a generalization of the QED work to include all the known elementary particles and their interactions (except gravity). Quantum chromodynamics is the portion of the Standard Model that deals with strong interactions, and QCD vacuum is the vacuum of quantum chromodynamics. It is the object of study in the Large Hadron Collider and the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, and is related to the so-called vacuum structure of strong interactions.Vacuum tube
In electronics, a vacuum tube, an electron tube, or valve (British usage) or, colloquially, a tube (North America), is a device that controls electric current flow in a high vacuum between electrodes to which an electric potential difference has been applied.
The type known as a thermionic tube or thermionic valve uses the phenomenon of thermionic emission of electrons from a heated cathode and is used for a number of fundamental electronic functions such as signal amplification and current rectification.
Non-thermionic types, such as a vacuum phototube however, achieve electron emission through the photoelectric effect, and are used for such as the detection of light levels. In both types, the electrons are accelerated from the cathode to the anode by the electric field in the tube.
The simplest vacuum tube, the diode invented in 1904 by John Ambrose Fleming, contains only a heated electron-emitting cathode and an anode. Current can only flow in one direction through the device -- from the cathode to the anode. Adding one or more control grids within the tube allows the current between the cathode and anode to be controlled by the voltage on the grid or grids. These devices became a key component of electronic circuits for the first half of the twentieth century. They were crucial to the development of radio, television, radar, sound recording and reproduction, long distance telephone networks, and analogue and early digital computers. Although some applications had used earlier technologies such as the spark gap transmitter for radio or mechanical computers for computing, it was the invention of the thermionic vacuum tube that made these technologies widespread and practical, and created the discipline of electronics.In the 1940s the invention of semiconductor devices made it possible to produce solid-state devices, which are smaller, more efficient, reliable and durable, and cheaper than thermionic tubes. From the mid-1960s, thermionic tubes were then being replaced with the transistor. However, the cathode-ray tube (CRT) remained the basis for television monitors and oscilloscopes until the early 21st century. Thermionic tubes still have some applications, such as the magnetron used in microwave ovens, and certain high-frequency amplifiers.
Not all electronic circuit valves/electron tubes are vacuum tubes. Gas-filled tubes are similar devices, but containing a gas, typically at low pressure, which exploit phenomena related to electric discharge in gases, usually without a heater.Wavelength
In physics, the wavelength is the spatial period of a periodic wave—the distance over which the wave's shape repeats.
It is thus the inverse of the spatial frequency. Wavelength is usually determined by considering the distance between consecutive corresponding points of the same phase, such as crests, troughs, or zero crossings and is a characteristic of both traveling waves and standing waves, as well as other spatial wave patterns.
Wavelength is commonly designated by the Greek letter lambda (λ).
The term wavelength is also sometimes applied to modulated waves, and to the sinusoidal envelopes of modulated waves or waves formed by interference of several sinusoids.Assuming a sinusoidal wave moving at a fixed wave speed, wavelength is inversely proportional to frequency of the wave: waves with higher frequencies have shorter wavelengths, and lower frequencies have longer wavelengths.Wavelength depends on the medium (for example, vacuum, air, or water) that a wave travels through.
Examples of wave-like phenomena are sound waves, light, water waves and periodic electrical signals in a conductor. A sound wave is a variation in air pressure, while in light and other electromagnetic radiation the strength of the electric and the magnetic field vary. Water waves are variations in the height of a body of water. In a crystal lattice vibration, atomic positions vary.
Wavelength is a measure of the distance between repetitions of a shape feature such as peaks, valleys, or zero-crossings, not a measure of how far any given particle moves. For example, in sinusoidal waves over deep water a particle near the water's surface moves in a circle of the same diameter as the wave height, unrelated to wavelength. The range of wavelengths or frequencies for wave phenomena is called a spectrum. The name originated with the visible light spectrum but now can be applied to the entire electromagnetic spectrum as well as to a sound spectrum or vibration spectrum.