For decades, elastomer seals have formed the backbone of high vacuum systems, offering remarkable sealing capabilities and durability. At ANCORP, we specialize in providing the highest quality elastomer seals designed to withstand the demands of high vacuum applications.
Elastomer Seals in Vacuum
Elastomer materials create a seal by undergoing deformation in vacuum which fills microscopic irregularities on a flange sealing surface, thereby creating a virtually impermeable seal by vacuum standards. The performance of an elastomer seal is heavily influenced by material compatibility between the elastomer and process conditions. Conditions that affect the elastomer are a result of both the inherent properties of the material and the environment of the vacuum.
Material compatibility is an essential factor to consider when selecting the appropriate seal. It involves a deep understanding of the chemical nature of the elastomer and its interaction with the surrounding environment, which may include a range of fluids, gases, and temperatures. At a molecular level, elastomers are long-chain polymers that have cross-links between the chains. These cross-links provide the elasticity and resilience that are characteristic of elastomers and influence compatibility. Among the numerous types of elastomers available, Fluorocarbon elastomers (FKM) and Perfluoroelastomers (FFKM) are the most commonly used in high vacuum applications.
FKM and FFKM: Different Elastomers for Different Applications
Fluorocarbon elastomers (FKM) and Perfluoroelastomers (FFKM) are examples of elastomers widely used in high vacuum applications, and each has a different chemical compatibility due to their unique molecular compositions.
FKM is characterized by carbon atoms fully or partially surrounded by fluorine atoms. The strong carbon-fluorine bonds lend FKM excellent chemical and thermal resistance. This molecular structure makes FKM seals compatible with a wide range of chemicals, including hydrocarbons, oils, and some acids, but less suitable for polar solvents like ketones and amines.
FFKM, on the other hand, has a structure where all backbone carbon atoms are surrounded by fluorine atoms. This results in even higher chemical resistance than FKM, making FFKM compatible with virtually all chemical media, including polar solvents, and even more extreme temperatures.