The Sustainability Opportunities of Innovative Lab Vacuum Technology

Peter Coffey, VACUUBRAND, INC.

Innovations in scientific vacuum supply in recent years offer significant energy and water savings, and substantial waste vapor emission reductions, when compared with traditional lab vacuum technologies. The innovations fall into three categories: variable speed pumps; modular vacuum networks; and vapor capture accessories.

Variable speed pumps can instantaneously match the vacuum requirements of a specific application, lowering average pumping speeds and reducing energy demands by as much as 90 percent. The energy savings from variable speed motors are familiar from modern Variable Air Volume (VAV) fume hood designs, and are now available in vacuum technology. The electronics used to control pumping speeds can also automate evaporative processes, typically shortening process times and saving additional energy.

Modular local vacuum networks rely on a small, quiet, in-lab pump to provide vacuum to several users. Local networks can be right-sized to known requirements, and are adaptable as needs change, replacing inflexible central vacuum systems. Producing vacuum on demand from local pumps can reduce energy demands by 70 percent or more. Further, by providing much deeper vacuum to bench ports than that available through central systems, local networks can also eliminate the need for water aspirators and many space-consuming dedicated individual vacuum pumps.

The discharge into the environment of vapors generated in common vacuum applications is another opportunity for sustainability gains that is often overlooked. In traditional practice, most of these vapors are entrained in discharged water (with water aspirators), vented through a fume hood, or exhausted through building stacks. Modern vacuum pump accessories permit the capture of most of the waste vapors in the laboratory.


Peter is the Vice President Marketing of VACUUBRAND, INC., the North American unit of VACUUBRAND GMBH + CO KG of Germany, an innovative manufacturer of vacuum pumps for laboratories and OEM use. VACUUBRAND introduced the first modular vacuum networks in 1994 in Europe, where its scientific and sustainability advantages made it the industry standard; Peter was appointed to his current post in 2009 principally to bring modular lab vacuum to North America. Previously, Peter served as Vice President of Marketing for BrandTech Scientific, Inc., an importer of VACUUBRAND pumps and other scientific equipment. Earlier in his career, he held sales, business development and general manager positions in start-up ventures and private companies serving technical markets. Peter is the author of numerous articles on the use of vacuum for laboratory applications, and holds an MBA from Stanford Business School, an MS in natural resources management, and a BS degree in biology.


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