For vacuum-system or test-article analysis, it is often desirable to know the species and partial pressures of the vacuum gases. Residual gas or partial pressure analyzers (PPAs) are commonly used for this purpose. These are mass spectrometer-type instruments, most commonly employing quadrupole filters. These instruments can be extremely useful, but they should be used with care. Depending on the instrument design, calibration procedures, and conditions of use, measurements made with these instruments can be accurate to within a few percent, or in error by two or more orders of magnitude. Significant sources of error can include relative gas sensitivities that differ from handbook values by an order of magnitude, changes in sensitivity with pressure by as much as two orders of magnitude, changes in sensitivity with time after exposure to chemically active gases, and the dependence of the sensitivity for one gas on the pressures of other gases. However, for most instruments, these errors can be greatly reduced with proper operating procedures and conditions of use. In this paper, data are presented illustrating performance characteristics for different instruments and gases. Operating parameters are recommended to minimize some errors. Calibrations procedures are described that can detect and correct other errors.

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