Astro Pak Corporation announced today that the company successfully developed new and improved processes and techniques that will significantly improve its ability to reduce non-volatile residue (NVR) on a variety of componentry and hardware in regards to Precision Chemical Cleaning. Astro Pak was honored to be included in aiding the teams from MIT and California Institute of Technology (Caltech) and JPL on the multi billion dollar advance LIGO project to achieve critical, and previously difficult to attain NVR levels on the project’s critical hardware.
For the past 2 years Astro Pak has been working to support the prestigious research institutions by developing a chemical cleaning process that could attain the target NVR residue criteria of 50 nanograms (50 billionths of a gram) per square centimeter. The hardware for this particular project consisted of Stainless Steel and Aluminum hardware / plates that weighed over 700 pounds, and included many square feet of surface area along with complex geometries and thousands of drilled holes – including threaded holes, blind holes, and holes that transitioned from one diameter to another. Astro Pak faced a considerable challenge of developing a chemical cleaning process that would reliably produce acceptable residue limits on such difficult to clean substrate materials. Through careful experimentation and process development based on knowledge gained by over 50 years in the precision cleaning business, Astro Pak successfully delivered a cleaning solution that was less harmful to the environment than the typical solvent-based precision cleaning agents commonly used in the past.
LIGO is the largest sustained ultra-high vacuum system in the world (8x the vacuum of space) keeping 300,000 cubic feet at one-trillionth the pressure of Earth’s atmosphere. Cleanliness of surfaces in such a high vacuum system is absolutely critical so that contaminants do not become volatile under vacuum and then outgas and re-deposit on the optics of the system. Astro Pak Corporation’s Technology Department helped to develop a process that was not only reliable and repeatable, but also utilized a ‘green’ approach by avoiding the use of hazardous materials wherever possible.