Sierra Mass Flow Controller
Sierra Instruments' SmartTrak 140 Ultra-Low ΔP Mass Flow Controller is a 2012 Flow Control Innovation Award Winner. (Photo Courtesy of Sierra Instruments)

Editor's Note: In the October 2012 issue of Flow Control, 11 case studies/application stories featured the winners of our 2012 Innovation Awards program. Over the following weeks, each winner is being featured on the FlowStream blog. The following post focuses on Sierra Instruments' SmartTrak 140 Ultra-Low ΔP Mass Flow Controller.

Precision mass flow control with low pressure drop requirements is critical for gas delivery efficiency and productivity in the semiconductor industry. With the expensive high-purity gases used by this industry, maintaining initial pressurization of the gas is critical until the gas is eventually put to work in the tool. The challenge for applications that require low pressure drop has been that traditionally precision gas mass flow control at higher flowrates, typically greater than 300 slpm (nlpm), rely on a large pressure differential (ΔP) across the control valve, specially with the small flow bodies and control valves commonly used in capillary-type thermal mass flow controllers. Without a low pressure drop mass flow controller solution, industries that use expensive process gases have lost countless dollars in gas costs and suffer compromised efficiency due to their differential pressure requirements.

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A case in point is a large semiconductor company in the Midwest that builds tools that use very expensive ultra high purity gas to blast the wafers clean in the silicon manufacturing process. To effectively clean the wafers, the semiconductor tools require extremely high-pressure gas, which is pressurized using ultra-clean compressors. This pure gas is very expensive, so it's critical to use the gas efficiently and effectively, not losing a single molecule in the process. Since gas flows from high to low pressure, the higher the pressure, the less pressure is lost in the system. With the introduction of the new Sierra SmartTrak 140, a mass flow controller that delivers unprecedented low pressure drop, they can now deliver highly pressurized, ultra high purity gas to work on the tool with almost no gas pressure lost in the process. This greatly increases the efficiency of their process, lowers the cost of wasted gas, and very simply results in more clean wafers.

Sierra's SmartTrak 140 Ultra-Low ΔP mass flow controller was specifically designed to meet the needs of the semiconductor and burner control industries. The SmartTrak 140 controls gas mass flow up to 500 slpm (nlpm) with an ultra-low ΔP of 4.5 PSID (310mBard), considerably lower than other mass flow controllers on the market that typically offer ΔP values of 25 PSID (1700 mBard).

The SmartTrak 140 mass flow controller is a hybrid of two innovative Sierra technologies: the award-winning SmartTrak 100 Series with its industry-leading, inherently linear Laminar Flow Element (LFE), sensor and digital electronics and industry staple SideTrak 840’s low ΔP with its large flow coefficient valve, which is a measure of how “easily” or efficiently flow goes through the valve. By combining these two technologies, the SmartTrak 140 includes all the best features of Sierra’s flagship SmartTrak 100 Series and boasts the lowest pressure drop in the industry.

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