Scientific Glassblowing Resources

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Glassblowing has been around for thousands of years, and we see examples of it every day. From neon signs to Murano glass to Chihuly glass exhibits. Less well known but very important to science is the art and craft of scientific glassblowing which is the process of creating glass apparatus used in research and production.

Over the years I have had the good luck to be working at universities on one or another type of vacuum chamber related instrument where some glass to metal seal was damaged but was able to be repaired by the resident glass blower.  More recently it seems that many of the glassblowers at universities are retiring and not being replaced. So, to an extent, scientific glass blowing is becoming a nearly lost art as this interesting article on the History of Glassblowing explains.

But all is not lost as there are still scientific glass blowers who are handing down their glassblowing expertise to those who will carry on the tradition.

Also, there are some schools which offer glassblowing courses such as Salem Community College.

Listed below are some companies that provide custom scientific glass blowing services. These companies can also repair broken glass to metal seals.

Nunn Better Glass

Precision Glass Blowing

Finally, The American Glassblowers Society has a Find a Glassblower link that lists glass blowers from different parts of the USA.

Electron multipliers for older PHI AES and XPS systems

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4831G Channeltron Electron Multiplier

The original channeltron and channel plate electron multipliers for the older PHI (Physical Electronics) AES and XPS systems are still available through Photonis.  The cost of these parts has increased substantially in the last few years, so be prepared for sticker shock the next time you need a channeltron or a set of channel plates!

Here are the Photonis part numbers for the different PHI systems:

Model NumberWhere usedPhotonis Part Number
4831G15-255G, 25-120, 25-120A, 25-130, 25-270 and 25-260 cylindrical mirror analyzers. 06-600 SIMS, 590 through 660 scanning AES systems30129
483910-150 and 10-155 CMA30131
48215100, 5300 and 5400 XPS systems 10-360 SCA single channel detector30117
PSD detector channel plate matched set EDR5400 XPS system 10-360 SCA PSD  position sensitive detector30300
MCD chevron plate set EDR5500 through 5800 XPS 10-360 SCA MCD 16 channel detector30410

For a quotation you can call 1-508-347-4000 or request a quotation at this URL –

32-095 and 32-096 X-ray source control faulty capacitor – urgent!

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Recently, I have seen the same problem on several 32-095 and 32-096 X-ray source controls which are used on older Physical Electronics PHI X-ray photo electron spectroscopy systems.

The issue is that C9, a 680 uF electrolytic capacitor blows out and the electrolytic material leaks out on the board.  Left unattended, the electrolytic etches and oxidizes the traces on the board.

If you have an older PHI XPS system that uses a 32-095 or 32-095 X-ray source control you should pull if out of the rack, remove the cover and inspect the board immediately.

If corrosion is present, then remove the board and remove C9.  Note the polarity of C9 as the + indicator on the board may be etched away.  Then, carefully clean the corrosion from the board as best as you can.   If in the shop I use some Alconox and let it sit on the board for a while, then rinse with DI water and let the board dry overnight.   In the field I have used isopropanol or methanol and cotton swabs.    Note that if the traces are corroded badly then they may come off the board as you clean it.  If so, you will need to use some fine copper wire to rebuild the traces.

Once the board is clean and dry, replace C9 with a new one.  I will dig into this issue some more and try to determine why this problem occurs so often and come up with a permanent solution.  In the meantime, I would recommend that the C9 capacitor be replaced every 5 years.

The pictures below show where C9 is located on the control board and what the corrosion looks like.

C9 removed
C9 location
C9 Neg towards connector