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The Big Barometer
The Big Barometer

In the atrium of the Engineering Building, stands the world’s tallest barometer. At 14.2 m tall (46'8"), the PSU Barometer is made of repurposed 2" i.d. pyrex glass pipe and has a 14 gallon reservoir. The thick-walled glass pipes were salvaged during a renovation of Science Building 2. They had previously been used for over 35 years as chemistry lab drain pipes.

The PSU barometer uses vacuum pump oil instead of water as the working fluid. Vacuum pump oil has several advantages in this application such as extremely low vapor pressure and the lowest available fluid density. Low vapor pressure is important for maintaining a vacuum over the fluid column. The low density of the vacuum oil allows the PSU Barometer’s fluid column to reach a nominal height of 12.4m and +/- excursions of 0.4m. A water barometer is limited to a height of 10m due to the density of water.

The construction of the barometer recieved front page coverage in The Oregonian

In addition to breaking a world record, the architect of the barometer, Tom Bennett (pictured right), was named the 2013 Outstanding Supporter of Research by the Sigma Xi Columbia Willamette chapter.

The PSU Barometer is primarily as a teaching tool for the Civil and Environmental Engineering fluid-related lab courses. It is available for other PSU Departments and for science and engineering education outreach programs.

If you would like to contact Maseeh College about using the PSU Barometer in science education curriculum or to schedule a tour of the college and see it in person please email barometer@cecs.pdx.edu.