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Doug Baker

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FAQ Corner - Units for Vacuum Measurement

Posted by Doug Baker on Mon, Sep 22, 2014 @ 04:23 PM

Earlier this year, the applications engineers here at Teledyne Hastings discussed topics for our blog. We all agreed that one of the more frequent questions that we discuss with folks involve the units used to measure vacuum levels. We find the technicians who use their vacuum systems daily often seem to develop a sixth sense about the “health” of their systems. They know something isn’t quite right when the base pressure (or rate of pressure change) is not what they expect. So when pressure measurements are not consistent from batch to batch, that is the time when the user stops to ask the meaning behind the data that their vacuum measurement instrumentation is providing.

Now, most users know that vacuum is commonly measured using units of pressure. There are a few different sets of pressure units and this blog will discuss the more commonly used ones. In Armand Berman’s book, Total Pressure Measurements in Vacuum Technology, pressure unit systems are divided into two categories: “Coherent Systems” and “Other Systems”.

Coherent Systems of Units are based on the definition of pressure (P) as the force (F) exerted on a chamber wall per unit area (A). P = F/A.  The International System of Units, or SI units, is commonly used for pressure measurement. http://physics.nist.gov/cuu/Units/units.html  The SI unit for pressure is the Pascal (Pa). It interesting to note that at NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology), published papers are always required to use the SI set of units. Again, the SI unit for pressure (force per unit area) is the Pascal. 1 Pa = 1 N /m2.

Now, the Pascal as a unit of pressure is not always the most convenient because vacuum systems are often operating in a range of pressures where we would need to collect data using large numbers. For example, near atmospheric pressure, we would measure approximately 100,000 Pa. So a more convenient unit, the bar, has been derived. (1 bar = 100,000 Pa)

Moving lower in pressure, it is very helpful to then use the mbar (1 mbar = 0.001 bar). So many vacuum users, especially in Europe, use the mbar as the basis for describing pressure levels. As a specific example, look at the base pressure specification of a turbo pump, it will be given in terms of mbar (e.g. Base Pressure < 1 x 10-10 mbar).

Another system of pressure units is based on the Torricelli experiment (shown in the diagram). In this experiment, the pressure exerted on the mercury can be shown to be P = hdg, where h is the height of the mercury column, d is the density, and g is the acceleration due to gravity.


Simple Barometer


By measuring the mercury column height, the user can determine the pressure. The Torr unit (named for the Italian scientist Torricelli) has been defined to be 1 millimeter of mercury (1 Torr = 1 mmHg). This unit is very common, especially in the United States. It is also common to use the mTorr (1 mTorr = 0.001 Torr). Many years ago, pressure was sometimes described in terms of “microns”, which simply meant a mercury column height of one micron (1x10-6 m). Note that the micron and the mTorr are the same.

One last word about the units used to measure vacuum: on occasion, there is confusion between pressure units. As we have seen above, the mbar and the mTorr are not the same. One mbar has the same order of magnitude as one Torr  (1 mbar ≈ 0.75 Torr).  The table below gives some approximate conversion values. A useful website for conversions:







mTorr (micron)


1 Pa =





~ 10-5

1 mbar =





~ 10-3

1 Torr =





~ 10-3

1 mTorr (micron) =





~ 10-6

1 Atm =












Douglas Baker is the Director of Sales & Business Development of Teledyne Hastings. Antonio Araiza prepared the Torricelli experiment drawing. Antonio is the head of Technical Documentation at Teledyne Hastings (and is among the best soccer referees in the Commonwealth of Virginia).

Tags: Teledyne Hastings Instruments, pressure, mTorr, mBar, micron, pascal, torr, vacuum pressure, units of measurement, vacuum gauges, vacuum meters, vacuum controllers

New! Free Teledyne Hastings Mass Flow Converter APP

Posted by Doug Baker on Tue, Aug 05, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Teledyne Hastings is proud to offer our Mass Flow Converter app. We have created a version for iPhone, iPad, and Droid. We have also created a web-based version that you can find at www.massflowconverter.com

In this blog article, we will discuss the motivation to build the app, how it works, and how it can be used.

The first question you might be asking is: Why do we need an app to convert from one set of mass flow units to another? For instance, if you want to convert from inches to centimeters, you would just multiply by 2.54. But, converting between mass flow units is not always that straight forward. So we have developed a tool that makes it easy.

We are going to look at some examples, but first let’s review what we mean by mass flow. When we think about mass flow, it can be helpful to think in terms of the flow of individual molecules. So while flow meters are often specified by units like sccm (standard cubic centimeters per minute) or scfm (standard cubic feet per minute), the mass flow rate is ultimately about the number of molecules (n) moving through a given cross sectional area per unit time (see figure below).


 Cross Section resized 600




So as our first example, let’s take a look at the conversion of 10,000 sccm (10,000 cm3/min) to a molecular flow rate. First, we need to ask, “How many molecules are in 10,000 sccm?” In the figure below, we show a container that is 10,000 cm3 in volume. Now, before we can calculate the number of gas molecules in a volume, we must know the pressure and temperature of the gas. We can use the ideal gas law:

n = (P * V) / R*T where n is the number of molecules, P is the pressure, V is the Volume, R is the Universal Gas Constant and T is the Temperature.


Framed Molecules per volume

Now we need to select some given pressure and temperature so that we can calculate the number of molecules – these are called the reference conditions or the STP (Standard Temperature and Pressure). In many cases, 0°C and 760 Torr are used for the STP. But this is not always the case. So it is always very important to specify the reference conditions (STP) any time you use a standardized mass flow unit like sccm, slm, scfh, etc (any mass flow unit that starts with “s” is going to need the reference conditions or STP specified). In our example, we are going to use STP of 0°C & 760 Torr.

OK, so here we go:     n = (1 atm) * (10,000 cc) / (82.053 cc * atm / K * mole) * (273 K)

Note that we have used a value of R in terms of pressure in Atmosphere (760 Torr = 1 atm), and Temperature in Kelvin (0°C = 273K). 

n = 0.45 mole

In other words, a flow rate of 10,000 sccm (0C, 760 Torr) is the same as a molecular flow rate of 0.45 Mole / minute.

OK that is the hard way. It’s much easier to use the mass flow converter app. In the example shown above, we would dial sccm on the left and Mole/Min on the right. Then to select the reference conditions, we use the menu in the center. See Fig. 3

 Framed screen shot mass flow converter app N2 resized 600

If you are like me, you will start to play with the App. And soon you will notice that the user can change the gas using the pull down menu at the top. But notice that in the case of our first example (converting from standardized mass flow units to molecular flow units), that the gas selection has no effect on the conversion.  This is because the standardized flow units (e.g. sccm, slm, scfh, etc.) are actually molar flow units based on reference conditions (STP) and the ideal gas law.

So, why do we allow the user to select gas? In the case of units like gm/sec, Kg/hr, or lb / min, we are going to need to know the gas so that we can calculate the mass. Let’s take a look at the case of converting from slm to grams/second. We will use as our same example of 10,000 slm (0°C & 760 Torr) and we will use methane (CH4) as our gas.

We showed earlier that 10,000 sccm is a molecular flow rate of 0.45 Mole / Min.  And since 1 slm = 1000 sccm, it is easy to see that 10,000 slm = 450 Mol/min. And since we know that our unit of choice (gm/sec) is in terms of seconds, let’s go ahead and convert our time units now:

10,000 slm = (450 Mole / Min) * (1 Min / 60 sec) = 7.5 Mole/ sec.

Now we need to know how much mass there is in a Mole of methane. Google is very nice for getting this number – just type, “Molecular weight of methane” and here is the result:


Framed mass flow converter app google screen shot resized 600 


By the way, Google will do this for almost all gases. So now we can finish our conversion and we get:


7.5 Mol / sec * (16.04 g/mol) = 120 g/sec


Framed mass flow converter app screen shot CH4 2 resized 600 


The mass flow converter app and website www.massflowconverter.com takes all the work out of these conversions and we hope that you will find this tool helpful. If you have any questions about mass flow meters and controllers, Application Engineers at Teledyne Hastings are always happy to help.

Tags: Teledyne Hastings Instruments, Flow Controller, Flow Meter, mass flow conversion, Mass Flow Calculator, Mass Flow Range, Gas Flow Range, Mass Flow, units conversion

Happy 45th Birthday Teledyne Hastings Instruments

Posted by Doug Baker on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 @ 03:17 PM


The entries in these blog pages are intended to provide helpful knowledge regarding vacuum gauges, vacuum instruments, gas mass flow meters, and flow controllers. But we could not pass an opportunity to celebrate an anniversary of sorts – on January 30th, 1968, Teledyne and Hastings - Raydist, Inc. announced that Teledyne would acquire the Hastings - Raydist company. According to the announcement in the Wall Street Journal, Hastings shareholders would receive one share of Teledyne stock for each 2.98 shares of Hastings – Raydist stock. So Hastings has been a part of Teledyne for 45 years…

Happy 45th birthday Teledyne Hastings Instruments!


Teledyne Hastings Vacuum gauge Apollo 11The history of the Hastings Instruments Company stretches all the way back to 1944. Next year, Hastings will celebrate its 70th birthday. But while we are in a corporate history mood, it might be fun to recall everybody’s favorite Hastings’ story:  In 1967, Hastings vacuum sensors were designed to travel to the moon and back. One of the objectives of the Apollo missions was to bring lunar samples back to earth. Special boxes, fitted with Hastings vacuum thermocouples were designed and built by Oak Ridge National Labs. Each box was required to be vacuum sealed; the Hastings thermocouple ensured that the seal was good before launch, and after splash down. The box and sensor worked perfectly.  Today, the thermopiles from the Apollo 14 mission are on display on a wall between one of the company’s conference rooms and a hallway. A magnifying lens and lamp installed in the display allows visitors to see the vacuum sensor.

Carol Hastings Saunders, daughter of Charles and Mary Hastings, recounts an interesting story in her book, “The Story of Hastings Raydist”. Two years prior to the acquisition of Hastings by Teledyne, Hastings was looking for an acquisition of its own to handle military contracts. The company considered Automated Specialties in Charlottesville Virginia. In 1965, Hastings began to acquire Automated Specialties by investing $100,000.But before the year was over, Automated Specialties was itself acquired by Teledyne. As a result, Hastings then held 11,948 shares of Teledyne. In late 1966, Hastings sold the shares and recognized $800,000 after taxes. Not bad on a $100K investment.

Today, Hastings Instruments is part of the Instrumentation Segment of Teledyne Technologies Incorporated (NYSE: TDY). The Instrumentation Segment provides measurement, monitoring and control instruments for marine, environmental, scientific and industrial applications. The Segment also provides power and communications connectivity devices for distributed instrumentation systems and sensor networks deployed in mission critical, harsh environments.  A complete history of Teledyne is given in Dr. George A. Robert’s book, “Distant Force – A Memoir of the Teledyne Corporation and the Man Who Created It”.

We welcome your comments on this history topic. Please complete the form below:

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Douglas Baker used his first vacuum gauge while an undergraduate physics major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. In graduate school at William and Mary, Teledyne Hastings vacuum gauges monitored the forelines in the vacuum systems in the atomic and molecular lab where he worked. Today, Doug is the Director of Sales & Business Development at Teledyne Hastings Instruments and he can be reached at dbaker@teledyne.com

Tags: Teledyne Hastings Instruments, Vacuum gauge, Sensor