In another addition to our expert interview series, we spoke to Dr Andrew Chew, who is a Global Applications Manager in the Scientific Vacuum Sector.
In his role, he is developing customised solutions for a large number of R&D applications such as Surface Analysis, Electron Microscopy, Mass Spectrometry, and many more. Find out more about his background and involvement with vacuum technology by reading our Q&A below.
Dr Andrew Chew
Global Applications Manager
Could you tell us a bit more about what your profession involves?
My role involves providing support to a large set of global experts. This includes understanding and explaining complex technical requests, quality issues and applications to produce highly efficient and safe solutions that meet customer requirements.
As well as providing support, I also identify new applications and trends for vacuum technology in the scientific sector and evaluate the potential of these opportunities. A large part of my role involves creating application notes, technical guidelines, patents, external articles, publications and training materials.
How long have you been in vacuum science / the vacuum industry?
How has vacuum science / the vacuum industry evolved over the years?
The main changes have been in 1) the expansion of the multi-disciplinary nature and application areas of vacuum, e.g. nanotechnology and bio-interfaces, and 2) the constant drive to create new generations of smaller, more robust, greener and higher performance vacuum pumps and componentry.
How did you first get involved with vacuum science?
I’ve been involved with vacuum science since the start of my PhD studies, where I first developed and investigated a molecular pressure gauge. From there the work expanded into molecule-surface vacuum interaction; specifically on the tangential momentum accommodation coefficients.
Why does vacuum science interest you?
Within the discipline vacuum there is a huge range of underlying scientific principles and foundations (which generally have a low profile in the scientific world). Some of the concepts are difficult; understanding them and explaining how they affect the optimisation of systems across a huge range of vacuum applications is very challenging. There are very few disciplines in science which have the dynamic range associated with the orders of magnitude of the range of vacuum science operating pressures.
What’s your favourite part?
Analysing complex systems and problems, understanding them and then explaining and creating solutions. A classic science procedure.
What relation does your work have to vacuum science / technology?
My work is intrinsically related to vacuum on a daily basis. The depth of vacuum fundamentals and the type of application constantly changes. Every day is different.
Is there a particular area of vacuum technology you specialise in?
I still retain an interest in the dynamics of the gas-surface interface and the molecular drag phenomenon.
What’s your main focus?
My primary role involves supporting the development of application solutions for the Scientific Vacuum sector. This covers Surface Analysis, Electron Microscopy, Mass Spectrometry, Cryogenics, Sample Preparation, Accelerators, Colliders and general R&D. There is also overlap of the sector into more industrial-focused applications, such as Plasmas and Sterilization. There are no unique pump and componentry solutions within each area, so the focus is always to determine and optimise the pump and other hardware solutions – often in direct partnership with customers.
What are the unique challenges you face on a day-to-day basis with regards to vacuum science / technology?
Making sure I understand the question being asked! Vacuum is a complex subject and often a line of investigation is needed to capture the required parameters and operating conditions. Only then can the correct proposal be made, and a solution developed.
What do you think the future of vacuum science looks like?
Reflecting on the history of vacuum shows how major developments often come unexpectedly. There may be a technological advance which has as yet no natural home or an application requiring a novel, undeveloped concept. Personally, I would say that the increased multi-disciplinary nature of vacuum will bring new ideas from those with different backgrounds and perspectives. Integration and intelligence will be key drivers.
Could you tell us about modern or predicted future applications of vacuum science?
There are many. I’m excited by the combination of medical diagnostics and treatments into ‘theranostics’ and the wider use of controlled plasmas, whether it’s for clean power generation or sterilisation.
Are there any barriers to its progression – what do you see being an issue in the years to come?
Size reduction and miniaturisation of all vacuum components.
What changes do you realistically anticipate in terms of developments to vacuum science technology?
Constant new product innovations with relatively short-time introductions and integrated systems of all sizes and scope.
What’s the next big thing in vacuum science?
Its application in Quantum Computing.
The website is meant to be a repository of information for both industry experts and those just getting involved with vacuum science – are there any resources or tips you would like to provide to help those people?
Sharing experience and feedback is great since it will help to improve the discipline of vacuum technology and broaden the experience both of users and suppliers of vacuum technology.
Don’t underestimate the complexity of vacuum science. Refer to its first principles in the same way as any other scientific or engineering discipline. Because of the enormous range and combinations of vacuum applications and applicable vacuum technologies, experience is key. Ask for help!
Are you a researcher, engineer or scientist in the field of vacuum science? We are always on the lookout for industry experts to get involved and share their knowledge. Contact us to become a contributor today!