Understanding Coaxial Feedthroughs for Coupling Signals into and out of Vacuum

Understanding Coaxial feedthroughs for coupling sensitive, high-frequency signals into and out of UHV/High Vacuum.

There are many different ways to transmit sensitive signals into UHV or High Vacuum, but the most common approach is to use coaxial (coax) feedthroughs.

Coaxial means that two conductors share a common axis. In a coax feedthrough the inner conductor is for a (typically small) signal and the outer conductor is connected to ground and works as a shield of that signal against electrostatic interference.

Understanding Coaxial Feedthroughs for Coupling Signals into and out of Vacuum

Image Credit: Allectra Limited

However, coaxial feedthroughs and connectors are used for a vast array of signals, and often the outer conductor will not be connected to ground or it will be connected to what is called a virtual ground.

For these applications, it is important that the feedthrough type is Floating (F). This means that the outer conductor can not only be connected to ground, but it can also be connected to a different voltage, as it is insulated from the flange itself (which for user safety is almost always at true ground). 

Coax feedthroughs can be used for shielding sensitive direct current signals, but they are also used for signals transmitted with a certain frequency (modulated, RF etc.).

For high-frequency, the impedance between the outer conductor and the inner conductor is important. 50 Ohm is the standard impedance matching (50) used in vacuum feedthroughs. 

For in-vacuum connectivity, double-sided (D) feedthroughs can be convenient, offering a familiar connector both on the air and the vacuum side.

Though their respective cost is higher than single-sided ones, they greatly simplify in-vacuum connections – which is particularly useful for cables that need to regularly be removed, or for high-frequency signals sensitive to the smallest mismatch. 

Allectra offers, amongst others, BNC (also Mdot, N-type), MHV, SHV, 7_16, SMB and SMA (also 18G, 27G and 40G) feedthroughs and connectors. Furthermore, multi-pin floating coax pins in a sub-D feedthrough (up to 5 in a D25 footprint) are also available. 

All Allectra feedthroughs are manufactured using welding and brazing techniques and do not use O-ring seals (with one exception – see below).

If welded into CF style copper gasket flanges, they are fully UHV compatible and can be baked for system outgassing if required. (The maximum temperature depends on the feedthrough type, please refer to the Allectra Web Shop for details). 

For High Vacuum applications, Allectra Coaxial feedthroughs can be welded into KF style flanges for clean, quickly demountable connections. 

Source: Allectra Limited

Common Name Description
BNC Bayonet Neill–Concelman; named after the working principle – Bayonet – and Neill & Concelman, the original inventors in ca. 1950
Mdot Microdot, invented in the 1950s by the Microdot company, now owned by TYCO, a proprietary connector
N-type N for Neill, inventor, 1940s
7-16 DIN 7 mm o.d. inner conductor, 16 mm i.d. outer conductor, a DIN standard
MHV Miniature High Voltage
SHV Safe High Voltage
SMA SubMiniature version A, also Super-SMA, SMA K-type 
SMB SubMiniature version B


High Frequency 

While 50 Ohm BNC, SHV and MHV can transmit modulating signals, for frequencies in the GHz range, the vacuum industry standard is the SubMiniature (SMA/SMB) feedthrough. With increased maximum frequency, the performance demands on the feedthrough, connectors and cables also increase significantly. 

Standard 50 Ohm SMA feedthroughs are rated to 6.5 GHz, while the SMAD18 extends beyond this range to 18 GHz. The new double-sided SMAD27G uses the Super-SMA design to extend the maximum frequency to up to 27 GHz, exclusively offering HV/UHV compatible plug&play high-frequency connectivity. 

The Viton™ O-ring sealed SMAD40G, using K-type SMA technology (2.92 mm), supports frequencies up to 40 GHz. Every SMAD40G feedthrough is delivered with a test certificate and demonstrates well-defined VSWR and insertion loss characteristics. 

HV/UHV Connectors and Cables

Aside from feedthroughs, Allectra is also a world-leading supplier of UHV/High Vacuum cables and can offer Kapton-insulated coax cables, such as 311-KAP50, pre-confectioned and made-to-measure cables such as the 380-SMA-MM-1000 and even UHV compatible semi-rigid cables for high-frequencies (max. 40 GHz) like the 380-SMAK-MM-500.

For details and specifications of Allectra Coaxial feedthroughs, please refer to the Allectra Web Shop

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by Allectra Limited.

For more information on this source, please visit Allectra Limited.


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