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Zeolite-loaded aerogel as a primary vacuum sorption pump in planetary instruments

  • Mihail P. PetkovEmail author
  • Steven M. Jones
  • Gerald E. Voecks


Zeolite-loaded aerogel (ZLA) getters were devised and developed for maintaining vacuum in the Seismic Experience for Interior Structure (SEIS) instrument on the NASA InSight mission to Mars. The ZLA are very lightweight compound materials (~ 0.1 g/cm3) with tunable density and high surface area (~ 500 m2/g), capable of maintaining high vacuum (HV, < 10−3 mbar) for extended periods of time at room temperature without any maintenance or consumption of power. Low temperatures, such as the surface environments on Mars and the icy worlds, enhance the ZLA adsorption by orders of magnitude, extending their capacity to the deep HV range sustainable over multi-year missions. Selective adsorption properties for species of interest can be further enhanced by cation exchange (Na+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Pd2+, etc.) prior to the zeolite incorporation in the material. The sol–gel process was formulated to produce homogeneously dispersed micron-sized zeolite particles embedded in the aerogel matrix. The ZLA liquid precursor can be cast in practically any shape prior to the formation of the solid wet gel, which is then dried supercritically. The resulting mesoporous aerogel network provides excellent molecular transport to the zeolite particles. For particle sensitive instruments such as SEIS, the ZLA adsorbers can be isolated by sub-micron filters without noticeable effects on their performance.


InSight mission Seismometer SEIS Planetary instruments Vacuum Sorption pump Getter Zeolite Zeolite-loaded aerogel 



We would like to thank Kenneth Hurst (JPL), Olivier Grosjean, Delphine Faye, Guillaume Rioland (Centre National d’Études Spatiales; CNES) for fruitful discussions, G.R. and D.F. (CNES) for supplying the NaY zeolite pellets, Randal Hatfield (Pacific Surface Science, Inc.) for gas adsorption experiments and William Warner (JPL) for TGA measurements. This paper constitutes InSight Contribution Number 66. This work was performed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, California Institute of Technology, under contract with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.NASA Jet Propulsion LaboratoryCalifornia Institute of TechnologyPasadenaUSA

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