Build Your Own Vacuum Chamber for Under $30

Science Workshop
Build Your Own Vacuum Chamber for Under

In this video, the always resourceful Chris Notap shows you how he created a small, tabletop vacuum chamber on the cheap using an old scroll compressor he got from a discarded dehumidifier, some common household items, and a vacuum gauge.

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He explains the project:

A vacuum chamber cost $400-$500 on Amazon, but I’ll show you how to build one yourself for under $30! You can do fun science experiments to see how things react inside of a vacuum. You’ll have full viewing since the vacuum chamber will be totally glass. With a few basic items, you can build this in less than an afternoon and you can make it with a chamber that is as small or as large as you want. When using a refrigeration compressor, zip-tie a rolled-up piece of sock or material to arrest any oil vapor that may come out. These compressors work by circulating a small amount of oil through the system, and when used in this manner, it creates a small amount oil vapor.

The Parts and Supplies You’ll Need:

1) Piece of scrap wood for the base 3/4″” (19mm) or thicker, no splits or rough grain and as flat as can be.
2) 2 pop bottles from the recycle bin with lids to make the release valve.
3) Vacuum gauge, this you may have to buy, a cheapy is fine.
4) Vinyl tubing, relatively inexpensive. Will usually be one of 2 sizes on the compressors. 3/16″ I.D (4.7mm). or 1/4″ I.D. (6.3mm)
5) Refrigeration compressor. Hunt the neighborhood on garbage day for anyone throwing away a fridge, freezer, dehumidifier, window a/c unit, or bar fridge. It’s possible the compressor you rob from the unit will be bad, but they are usually fine in most cases.
(you may have to check with your local HVAC guy to see how to release the refrigerant if it has any in the discarded freezer, fridge, dehumidifier, bar fridge, window a/c unit) always wear safety glasses!
6) A glass dome. Use a mason jar, pickle jar, large size jar, flower vase, pretty much any cylindrical glass container will do with a nice flat top edge.
7) Silicone baking sheet. Hunt around. The Dollar Store sometimes sells these at a cheap price.
8) If you want to do electrical testing, use 14/2 house wiring.
9) Tube of silicone caulking, any color, the cheapest you can find.

So, what can you do with such a vacuum chamber? Here are a couple of experiments Chris did with his new homemade device:

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Gareth Branwyn is a freelance writer and the former Editorial Director of Maker Media. He is the author or editor of over a dozen books on technology, DIY, and geek culture. He is currently a contributor to Boing Boing, Wink Books, and Wink Fun. His free weekly-ish maker tips newsletter can be found at

View more articles by Gareth Branwyn


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