I always thought vacuum technology was a little boring. The applications/processes that utilize vacuum however can be very interesting and sometimes even fascinating. I have been in the industry going on three decades now and it is still amazing to run into an existing or new application I never heard of.

One particular application I remember in detail was in my early years during routine sales calls to a NH medical college. In those days you could simply walk the halls, and poke you head in each lab to see who was using vacuum pumps. One researcher referred me to a Professor in the so called Plastination Lab. I had no idea what plastination was, but was told that it did use vacuum, so down the hall I went until I came to a very small lab.

As I entered the lab the strong smell of food was in the air. I looked to my right and there was a Professor sitting down eating his lunch, some type of stir fry over rice. To my surprise he had human organs, a heart, lung, and liver, sitting on the bench right beside the plate of food he was eating. I introduced myself explaining why I was here. He told me to come on in as he grabbed the heart with the other hand that wasn’t shoveling the food into his mouth, and put it into this small vacuum chamber. I remembered an episode from Quincy doing the same thing during an autopsy, for those of you old enough to remember that show.

He pointed to the vacuum pump, a small inexpensive Gast pump, turned it on, and starting explaining to me what he was doing. Plastination, he said with a great deal of enthusiasm, is used for preserving body parts or organs for medical research. It can even be used to preserve an entire body. As he finished the last bite of his stir fry the Professor was kind enough to explain the process steps in detail. There are several different processes that can be used he explained, this is the way I do it.

Fixation
Dehydration
Forced Impregnation
Gas- Curing (Hardening)

After he finished explaining his process steps I shook his hand and thanked him for his time, immediately went to the nearest lavatory, washed my hands repeatedly and ultimately just decided to skip lunch.

I always thought this was a unique application, and remember it to this day.