Friday, December 15, 2017

Taking Care of Your Environmental Chamber

plant growth chamber environmental chamber with red LED lighting
Maintaining the condition of your environmental chamber
is essential to keeping it performing like new.
Image courtesy Percival Scientific
When your new environmental chamber or incubator arrives, fresh off the pallet, everything about the equipment is in top shape. Over time, through normal use, there are aspects of the equipment that can become worn, dirty, or otherwise compromised. This normal wear and tear, if left unchecked, can impede the proper operation of your chamber and cause its performance to deteriorate.

Percival Scientific, globally recognized manufacturer of plant growth chambers and other environmentally controlled chambers and rooms, posted a blog with some general recommendations that users can employ to make sure their equipment stays in good working order. You can read the full article, or a synopsis with key items provided below.

  • Air cooled condensing units must have sufficient air movement across their condenser surface in order to function properly. As dust accumulates on the condenser, the chamber's ability to cool is compromised. You may need to use a small ladder of step stool to get access for inspection and cleaning. Use a vacuum to remove accumulated dust, not compressed air. The air quality at the chamber installation site will determine how often this inspection and cleaning should be performed. 
  • Perform a similar check at the evaporator, the cooling coil inside the chamber. The requirements are the same. Remove accumulated dust with a vacuum.
  • Chambers with cooling systems will have a condensate drain pan and a drain tube below the evaporator coil. Over time, dust and dirt (sometimes debris) can accumulate in the pan or restrict flow through the drain tube. Periodic flushing with warm soapy water will help keep the line and pan clean and clear.
  • Various surfaces within the chamber will benefit from regular cleaning. This will help retard corrosion, accumulation of dirt, and growth of unwanted mold, etc.
There are more regular maintenance details, depending upon the features of the environmental chamber. Many users, already burdened by the time demands of their work, contract with outside parties to perform regular cleaning, checking, and calibration. Whatever your system of performing regular preventive maintenance, keep it in place and working to maintain the chamber performance you expect.

Share your environmental chamber questions, concerns, and challenges of all types with the equipment specialists at Atlantic Technology Group. Their expertise will leverage your knowledge and experience into effective solutions.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Cleaning and Neutralizing Agents for Lab Washing

laboratory glassware washing chemicals cleaning and neutralizing
Laboratory glassware cleaning and neutralizing agents
Image courtesy Miele Professional
Using good chemicals in lab washing operations is as important as using a good machine. Miele Professional, under the ProCare brand, offers a specially formulated line of cleaning and neutralizing agents crafted to maximize the effectiveness of machine washing.

Cleaning agents are available in alkaline or mild alkaline versions to match the level and type of load soiling. Liquid and powdered versions allow for dispensing by your preferred method.

Neutralizing agents are acidic in nature, used as a pre-cleaning treatment or neutralizer of alkaline residues left from the primary wash portion of the cleaning cycle. Two versions, based on differing acidic agents, cover the majority of neutralizing requirements.

Matching your wash chemicals to the load requirements will yield the best results. Share your lab utensil and glassware washing challenges with lab equipment experts, combining your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop the best solution.

Monday, December 4, 2017

Horizontal Laminar Flow Clean Benches

horizontal laminar flow clean bench with glass sides
This horizontal laminar flow clean bench is
free standing and has glass sides to the work zone.
Image courtesy Esco
Processes and operations that require technicians to perform hands-on tasks without contaminating their work are often performed in a horizontal laminar flow work station or clean bench. With filtered air flowing horizontally from the rear of the work area and through the open front, these stations provide a level of protection against infiltration of contaminants from the surrounding space.

Some features common to horizontal laminar flow clean benches:

  • Large open area into the work zone with no obstruction.
  • HEPA filtered air in work zone. 
  • Horizontal laminar air flow pattern prevents entry of dust and contamination from surrounding space.
  • Work area surfaces suitable for cleaning with sanitizing agents.
  • Bench mounted or provided with integral floor stand.
Esco manufactures the Airstream® line of horizontal and vertical laminar flow clean benches targeted for laboratory use. The various models include a host of features tailored to laboratory use. More information is available in the document below, and share your clean work station requirements with lab equipment specialists. The combination of your own experience an knowledge with their product application expertise will yield a positive solution.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Water Purification Knowledge for Laboratory Applications

laboratory water purification unit with dispensing user
Specifying lab water purity requirements based on
application and matching water purification equipment
to the requirements delivers a cost effective solution.
Image courtesy ELGA
Purified water is essential to a broad range of laboratory operations. Creating a match between the lab process requirements for purity and quantity with the performance ratings of water purification equipment can be challenging. The time spent creating a solid plan will pay dividends for the life of the equipment selected.

ELGA, a member of Veolia Water Technologies, focuses on the treatment of water for laboratory use. They have condensed the subject of laboratory water purification into a modest sized document that covers several facets to be considered when planning a lab water system.

  • Why water purity is important for every lab application
  • The things you need to know about water impurities
  • Water purification technologies available
  • Matching the water purity standard or specification for your application
  • Practical considerations for installing a water purification system
  • The future of water purification in the lab
The full document is available upon request. Share your water purification requirements and challenges with application experts. Leverage your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise and develop an effective solution.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Two Key Recommendations for Purifying Your Laboratory Water

laboratory water purification equipment point of use station with technician drawing sample
Assessing the demand for various grades of purified
water in the laboratory can lead to a cost effective approach
to equipment specification and purchase.
Image courtesy Elga
In this post we share the expertise and knowledge of a globally recognized leader in water purification for laboratory and process applications. Elga Lab Water has been delivering cost effective solutions for converting all types of source water into various purified grades for research and industrial use. Below, with only minor editing to accommodate this publishing format, is a short article published by the editorial staff at Elga. It provides the two most basic, and most important, recommendations for consideration in selecting a water purification system for your lab.

From the Elga staff....
The water in your tap has already gone through several purification steps to keep you safe and yet it still contains all sorts of impurities like microorganisms, salts (the reason why you would get electrocuted if you dropped a hair drier in the bathtub) and organic compounds. Suddenly, water that’s pure enough to drink might not be quite as pure as you thought.

In the lab, water is perhaps your most important reagent (and its position as the universal solvent means that it is probably also a component of many other reagents you use). Impurities, on the other hand, are usually your enemy. You should be using different levels of purity for different applications, to avoid problems caused by contaminants (all while minimizing financial cost). Pre-treating water is a great way to obtain a lot of water sufficient for a wide range of low-purity applications, and you can use this water in further steps of purification for those applications that are more demanding. The type of purity required depends on the application the water is for, and you can save money by making sure you chose the right type. Read on to find out more about these two cost-saving tactics.

Recommendation 1: Pretreat your water to cut down costs

Let’s assume your water has made it to the tap. It’s come out of the ocean or Earth’s deep underground storage, through modern water treatment works and into the pipes. You could take small amounts of this and purify it to high levels, but a more economical and efficient option is to start with pretreatment, which takes large quantities of water to a level of purity that is already appropriate for some uses, like preparing cleaning reagents. This allows you to take advantage of economies of scale and prevents you from using more expensive water for rudimentary applications such as cleaning. You can then use this water as a precursor for higher levels of purification. To pretreat water, you pass large volumes through compressed fibers that filter out particles of a nominal size. Activated carbon (AC) is relatively cheap (you’ll see it in many hikers’ backpacks these days for emergencies) and you can use this to remove chlorine, chloramine and organics.

Recommendation 2: Choose a water treatment option based on your needs

After pretreating your water, you have several options for removing different impurities. Which one you choose should depend on the type of experiment you plan to carry out:
  • Reverse osmosis (RO) – uses semi-permeable membranes to typically remove over 95% of ionic and organic contaminants. Dissolved gases are not removed. 
  • Ion exchange (IX) – cartridges or cylinders containing resin with small porous beads. They need regular replacement but are relatively cheap. Other contaminants such as bacteria remain. 
  • Electrodeionization – combines features of RO and IX. 
  • Filtration – finer filters than those used for pretreatment. Removes colloids, bacteria and particulates and with the finest filters can remove nucleases, endotoxins and organics. 
  • Ultraviolet (UV) 
  • Distillation – removes contaminants that don’t evaporate with water. 
  • Degassing – uses a hydrophobic membrane and a vacuum or flush gas to remove gases such as CO2 and O2. 
  • Vent filters – can be fitted to reservoir to prevent contaminants entering stored water. 
Designing a cost effective water purification equipment system can be challenging. Share your requirements with a water purification specialist, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop the best solution.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Vacuum Ovens

vacuum oven
Vacuum oven chamber is upper portion, with controls
on top and vacuum station below.
Image courtesy BMT USA
Drying, the removal of moisture or a solvent from a solid material, is a common process throughout research and production operations. The myriad applications each have the same purpose, but may need to employ differing means to accomplish their goal.

There are some instances where a combination of heat and reduced pressure can produce the best results. A vacuum oven enables the reduction of the atmospheric pressure within the enclosed chamber, while at the same time applying heat to the subject material. Reduced pressure lowers the temperature at which a liquid will vaporize. Heat provides energy needed for the vaporization of water or solvents contained with the subject material. Chamber pressure reduction is accomplished with a vacuum pump that is equipped or otherwise suitable for use with whatever vapors may emanate from the chamber. In some cases, the removal of air from the chamber is also beneficial because it inhibits oxidation of the drying material during the drying process.

A well configured vacuum oven will have easy to use controls for temperature and vacuum system operation. The manner in which the chamber interior is configured to enhance conduction of heat into the processed material is also important. Vacuum systems can be separate, or integrated as part of a complete vacuum oven system.

For more information, share your drying application challenges with laboratory equipment specialists, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Laboratory Steam Sterilizers

laboratory steam sterilizer
Sterivap laboratory steam sterilizers suit a full range of
laboratory applications.
Image courtesy BMT
The sterilization process is an essential part of laboratory operations, assuring  safety and quality of the work that is done. Though the sterilization cycle is simple to describe, the criticality of the process calls for the use of numerous features in sterilization equipment, to assure successful completion of each and every cycle.

BMT USA incorporates a host of important performance features in it Sterivap series of laboratory steam sterilizers.
  • Dual microprocessor controls with separate instrumentation for maximum load safety
  • Color touch screen operator interface
  • 316L Stainless steel chamber and 316Ti jacket with 15 year non-prorated warranty
  • Hinged fascia panels with key lock for ease in maintenance access
  • Mechanical vacuum pump for consistent vacuum performance
  • Water conservation for up to 75% reduced water consumption
  • Space saving design-less floor space required
  • Automatic Motor driven precision sliding doors
  • High grade non-proprietary components
  • Double pressure sensors ensure no pressure inside the chamber before unlocking of doors can occur.
More detail is provided below. Share your laboratory and process sterilization challenges with application specialists, combining your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Compounding Station for Non-Sterile Drugs

non sterile drug compounding isolator station
Economical compounding station provides
worker protection
Image courtesy Esco
Non-sterile drug compounding, with the absence of a need to isolate the pharmaceutical compound from the surrounding environment, presents potential hazards to technicians through exposure to airborne portions of the chemicals being processed.

Esco provides an economical solution, providing adequate operator protection for operations complying with USP 800 for non-sterile hazardous drug compounding. The Powdermax™ Powder Weighing Balance Enclosure delivers a workspace for compounding while providing operator protection from hazardous drug powders.

More detail is provided in the datasheet included below. Share your sterile and non-sterile isolation requirements with lab equipment experts. Leverage your own knowledge and experience with their lab equipment application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Gas Infuser for Maintaining Anaerobic Chamber Condition

anaerobic gas infuser controller for anaerobic chambers
Anaerobic gas infuser provides automatic montioring
and control of chamber atmosphere.
Image courtesy Coy Laboratories
Efficient maintenance of anaerobic conditions in specialty biological chambers requires accurate measurement of hydrogen gas concentration and controlled introduction of anaerobic gas mixture. It is possible to maintain the anaerobic chamber gas mixture utilizing a continuous purge flow, but that is a comparatively costly means.

Anaerobic gas consumption can be substantially reduced using Coy Labortories' Anaerobic Gas Infuser to monitor chamber conditions and inject gas only when needed. The fully automatic system also prevents excess pressure buildup in the chamber by venting the chamber as new gas is introduced. Here are some of the product features, from the Coy Labs product page.
  • Automatic hydrogen maintenance
  • Designed to control at precisely 3% for safe operating conditions.
  • Touch Screen Controls
  • Alarms for excess gas consumption
  • Trouble shooting guide
  • Data logging of both oxygen and hydrogen levels
  • Maximize cost efficiency of the Gas Mix supply
  • Includes communication cable for connection to any Coy Anaerobic Monitor
  • Gas Lines and Chamber Fittings Included
Share your lab equipment challenges and requirements with the experts at Atlantic Technology Group and leverage your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Laboratory Ovens and Incubators Overview

BMT manufactures an extensive line of drying ovens and incubators for laboratory and processing applications. Differing product series are tailored with construction and operational features for applications prevalent throughout the sciences and research. The video will give you a quick tour of the product offering.

More detail is available from the lab equipment and planning specialists at Atlantic Technology Group. Share your requirements and challenges with them and leverage your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Does Your Cold Room or Chamber Need a Backup Cooling System? Part Three

cold storage room interior with shelving and fan coil unit
Creative cooling system designs, coupled with smart
controls, can improve cold room performance and reduce risk.
In Part One of this series, defining cold storage risk in quantifiable means was the major topic. Part Two illustrated that there are several operating schemes that can be employed to protect against mechanical failure in a cold storage facility, whether a reach-in cabinet or a building sized enclosure.

Effectively implementing a plan that reduces risk in cold storage facilities will require participants with more than just a familiarity with refrigeration system operation. Here is a list of some subjects of technical expertise that should be part of the solution.

  • Refrigeration system operation - This seems obvious, but what is needed is a somewhat more detailed knowledge of how refrigeration systems work. The expertise is useful for developing a hierarchy of all the potential failure scenarios, how to detect them and respond.
  • Refrigeration compressor failure - Risk reduction involves focusing on all the things that can go wrong. Not everyone is adept at doing this, but for the purposes of this project it is a useful skill. 
  • Sensing and measurement technology - Cold space temperature failure only occurs after mechanical failure. Relying on temperature as the only indication of failure overlooks the benefits derived from direct monitoring of equipment operation.
  • Control system complexity - Regulating and coordinating all the various facets of system operation is challenging when multiple cooling systems are involved. The control system must be capable of delivering proper cold space performance under a number of operating equipment scenarios. Two cooling systems could be active, or either of the single units in coordination with one another or alone.
The control system is the key to gaining the most advantage of any additional expense for backup refrigeration equipment. Monitoring equipment operation will enable early detection and alert for a number of indicators of impending or immediate equipment malfunction. Here is a short list of the essential performance parameters to monitor.
  • Room temperature - Obvious, with no explanation needed.
  • Refrigeration compressor motor current - This is easily and economically accomplished. It provides an indication of whether the compressor is operating in response to controller command, as well as key information about compressor performance.
  • Refrigerant discharge and suction pressure - This can be used to assess system performance in relation to an established baseline. Additionally, there are numerous opportunities to utilize discharge and suction pressure relationships as indicators of refrigeration system health.
  • Evaporator fan motor current - The fans that move air through the cold space are driven by one or more motors which are part of the equipment needed for expected performance. Motor health and performance can be determined using fan motor current.
There is plenty involved in deriving the maximum benefit from the additional cost for backup equipment. System control is easily accomplished with a properly programmed PLC. Understanding the interrelation of multiple systems operating on a single cold space is key to implementing a successful solution.

Share your cold storage concerns and challenges of any scale with equipment planning experts. Leverage your own knowledge and experience with their application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Does Your Cold Room or Chamber Need a Backup Cooling System? Part Two

laboratory controlled environment rooms for plant growth
The usage pattern of a cold space will determine how
best to reduce the risk from mechanical failure.
Image courtesy of Percival Scientific
In Part One of this series, what may define failure in cold room or refrigerator operation was discussed, giving the reader a starting point in evaluating whether to incorporate a backup refrigeration system into a cold space design. Operational failure can, and does, arise from countless sources. Some can be expected and anticipated, others not. Regardless of the source of failure, though, having a backup plan in place can help avoid damage to cold stored materials in all but the most catastrophic of events.
Once a decision is made to establish a contingency or backup plan, the form of the backup strategy needs to be addressed.
All backup strategies have a common goal of keeping the cold material cold. A simple clear goal, but with numerous ways it can be achieved, and each option may provide its own array of additional benefits or attributes which make it more suitable for a particular facility, budget, or other constraint.

"Twins" - An obvious backup cooling strategy is to provide a copy of whatever system is required for full range operation of the cold space. While this option offers an easy decision, it is likely to be one of the more costly ways to proceed. Proper design of a cooling system is based upon a load calculation that accounts for all the heat gain to which the cold space will be exposed. The sum of the loads will determine the size of the cooling system. Some applications that require close temperature control, or are subject to excessive door opening time, large warm mass additions, fresh air induction, dehumidifier operation, or a host of other heat sources could have comparatively large cooling systems. Purchasing and installing a full capacity redundant cooling system, in these cases, should be considered only when full operational capability of the space is the only option. When one system fails, the backup can maintain the space conditions without any change needed to the way in which the space is used.

Relocate - When the amount of stored material is manageable and a suitable space can be identified, it may be most effective to maintain unused cold space that is designated for use in the case of equipment failure. This likely will apply best to installations of refrigerated cabinets (refrigerators), where stored materials can be easily moved from the failing refrigerator to the backup space. The backup space should be kept in operation continuously, so its proper operation is confirmed. This backup scheme may be well suited to facilities with numerous refrigerated cabinets in use. The common backup cold space serves multiple users. A challenge specific to this plan is keeping the backup cold space from being used as normal cold space by any user for any number of reasons.

Full Load / Base Load - If a cold space is to have two cooling systems, an alternate to the "Twins" scheme can be considered. An analysis of space usage may reveal patterns that can be adjusted in case of a failure of the primary system. If a change in space usage can be enforced during periods when the primary cooling system is inoperable,  a smaller capacity, lower cost cooling unit can be incorporated as the backup unit. This option can impose some additional control challenges, but also some potential energy saving benefits, which will be discussed in the next installment.

Half Load / Full Load - If there are substantial lengths of time during which the cold space faces a low and stable heat load, another operating scheme may be considered for providing backup cooling. The full heat load component of the design is split evenly between two cooling units. One of the cooling units will be sufficient to maintain cold space temperature during most of the day, with the second unit available to provide additional capacity when needed. The second unit also serves as a backup in case the primary fails. This scheme will require adjustment to room usage in the case of failure, similar to that of the Full Load / Base Load plan previously described.

There are numerous other risk reduction schemes that can be developed to deal with the potential of cooling system mechanical failure. Some schemes may provide energy savings during normal operation, as well. A key element of real risk reduction and maximizing the benefit of the additional equipment cost lies in the control system. The controls need to be capable of detecting failure and taking appropriate action in response to a large matrix of possible conditions. The takeaway from this article is that there is more than one solution to the challenge. Approach the problem with an analysis of how the cold space is utilized, before selecting equipment. The subject can be more complex than it appears, especially to those unfamiliar with control systems. Enlist the help of experienced equipment specialists to help identify the risks, assess cold space usage, and develop an effective plan.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Does Your Cold Room or Chamber Need a Backup Cooling System? Part One

cold room in laboratory facility
Laboratory Cold Room
The applications for refrigerated space are extensive and varied. Materials, products, and processes are housed in cold cabinets (refrigerators) and rooms because the stored contents will deteriorate or otherwise be rendered useless through exposure to elevated air temperature. Cold spaces have some sort of system or arrangement that maintains the interior temperature below that of the surrounding space. The continuous operation of that system is essential to keeping the space cold and protecting the stored material. There is risk of loss associated with the operation of the equipment. Properly evaluating the probability and extent of a loss due to equipment failure is a key element in determining whether to invest in a backup cooling system for a cold space. The first step in the evaluation process is to define what constitutes failure.

Define failure in quantitative terms.

In order to make good decisions about how to proceed, or even if you should proceed at all, it is useful to describe failure conditions in a way that can be put to use in designing a solution that reduces the risk associated with it. "The cold room is not cold" is an accurate, yet insufficient description of a failure condition. It sheds little light on what should be done with the mechanical or control systems to reduce risk. Stakeholders tend to think of performance and failure in terms of the product or process contained within the cold space. It is most useful to describe failure in terms of system operation or performance, since these items can be used to develop a workable design or plan to address the risk. Here are some suggestions of things that might be included in your description of failure.
  • Temperature Excursion - Define an unacceptable deviation from setpoint conditions in terms of time and temperature. For example, "Temperature five or more degrees above setpoint for greater than seven minutes." This description provides a quantified design target. Your concern may be stored material temperature, rather than cold space air temperature, but control systems are most likely to measure and regulate air temperature. Describing a temperature excursion in terms of air temperature is most useful.
  • Equipment Operation - Most cold space temperature excursions are preceded by an event involving equipment or component malfunction. Establishing a list of equipment performance requirements necessary for proper operation can be useful in evaluating how deeply you may want to pursue the  reduction of risk. A simple example, confirming the refrigeration machinery is operating in response to a controller command, can be used to reduce risk of temperature excursion because the machinery failure can be detected before the temperature excursion is evident. An in depth analysis of equipment operation can produce a stunningly large list of events that must occur for proper operation. Not all will be candidates for action.
  • Improper Operation - This category includes things that the user may do, or coincidental things that may happen, that negatively impact system operation and will lead to failure. Some examples include over or improper loading of the space, failure of building support systems or utilities, and allowing excessive infiltration of air from the surrounding space (leaving the door open). Once again, a careful examination will produce a large list of possibilities which must be pared down to a workable few that can deliver cost effective protection.
It will be effective to bring in a cold room or refrigerator specialist and make them part of your evaluation team. As you can probably see, there are some fairly technical issues involved once you get beyond a description of temperature excursion. A specialist can help bring the technical issues into focus and provide explanation of each that stakeholders can use to make informed decisions.

In the next post, I will cover some strategies for reducing risk for cold space stakeholders. Share your cold storage and process requirements and challenges with equipment experts, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their expertise to develop effective solutions.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Full Featured Environmental Chamber Control System

environmental chamber control panel plant growth chamber control panel
The IntellusUltraConnect C9 adds a range of remote
connectivity functions to the operational functions of the
IntellusUltra C8.
Image courtesy Percival Scientific
Percival Scientific has a long history of designing and manufacturing environmental chambers and plant growth chambers for life science industries and institutions. Those years of experience are part of the IntellusUltra series of control units that serve as the user interface and operating unit of the company's line of environmental rooms and chambers.

Ease of use is the hallmark of the controllers. Some applications, especially those for plant studies, can require multi-step profiles that change temperature, humidity, lighting, and other functions. Entering or editing a profile with IntellusUltra is intuitive and simple.

In addition to a plethora of operational features, the "Connect C9" version offers a range of remote connectivity functions that can keep users in touch with their equipment and research anytime and anywhere. From the Percival Scientific website...
  • Remote connectivity and monitoring with e-mail notifications.
  • On-board USB connection allowing for real time data logging with up to four gigabytes of data storage. Simply use a portable USB stick to download your data to analyze on any other capable device.
  • An on-board Ethernet connection allows direct monitoring and analysis of chamber conditions.
  • Available remote monitoring software has been optimized to interface with the major web browsers.
  • Ability to upgrade to our cloud-based service securely and confidently monitor and backup your research data
Solid control of environmental parameters, plus connectivity that enables access to the system from anywhere. More detail is provided in the document included below. Share your environmental room and chamber plans and challenges with experienced lab equipment professionals, leveraging your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop effective solutions.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Laboratory Refrigerators Equipped for Specialized Applications

laboratory refrigerator configured for chromatography process glass doors electrical outlets wall ports
Laboratory refrigerators can be specifically configured
to match lab process work.
Image courtesy Powers Scientific
Refrigerated space in a laboratory is not the same as refrigerated food storage space. Yes, of course, both are cold. Laboratory needs, though, can range beyond simple cold storage. Lab cold space work is often an ongoing process that requires a cold environment. There may be application requirements that will not be accommodated by food service or simple cold storage units.

  • Temperature Control - Stored materials and processes in a lab cold space are likely to have a low tolerance for temperature excursions outside a comparatively narrow range. Higher performance controllers, and in some cases modified or specialty refrigeration systems, deliver the performance needed for these applications. 
  • Corrosion - The presence of some chemicals in a lab cold space requires accommodation with a chamber inner liner with adequate resistance to corrosion.
  • Instrumentation and Process Equipment - Lab processes can incorporate the use of equipment and instrumentation within the cold space. Heat generated by the equipment must be removed by the refrigerator cooling system in order to maintain control of temperature. These instruments operate with electric power which must be accessible within the chamber, via installed receptacles, or through capped ports in the cold space wall with an extension cable. The ports can also serve to provide a path for tubing or other instrumentation cables into the cold space from the surrounding lab.
  • Safety - Some chemicals and materials present flammability or explosion hazards when stored or placed in enclosed spaces. Special refrigerators are available that are specifically designed and built to meet the regulatory requirements for storing these hazardous materials.
  • Vibration - Certain processes may require the maintenance of low vibration transmission from the refrigerator cabinet and machinery to the housed process. This requires special attention to the mounting and structure of critical refrigerator machinery and interior supports.
Share your laboratory cold space requirements with a lab equipment expert, combining your own knowledge and experience with their equipment application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Keeping the Cool in Your Laboratory Refrigerator

sliding glass door laboratory refrigerator
A small amount of regular maintenance can
assure sustained performance of your lab refrigeration equipment
Image courtesy Powers Scientific
Hardly the highest tech piece of equipment in your lab, that refrigerator or freezer is nonetheless important to much of what goes on in the lab. The supplies or work in process stored in those refrigerated spaces represents precious time and budgeted funds. Knowing and doing a few simple things can keep refrigeration equipment operating smoothly, save energy, and head off costly repairs.

There are a number of different refrigerator configurations, so let me limit this brief explanation to something of a generic lab refrigerator, like that pictured above from Powers Scientific. Here are some basics.

  • Double sliding glass doors
  • Bottom mounted air cooled refrigeration system
  • +4 degree Celsius operating temperature

How does a refrigerator really work?

The refrigerator essentially consists of three things:

  • Insulated Cabinet - The cabinet is what you see, what you refer to as the refrigerator. It contains the stored materials. The cabinet also keeps the cold air from leaking out to the surrounding space and keeps the surrounding air from entering the contained area. The cabinet structure also provides a barrier of thermal resistance to heat transfer, or insulation.
  • Heat Transfer System - Also called the refrigeration system or cooling system, the heat transfer system takes heat from the air within the cabinet and expels, or transfers, it to some medium outside the cabinet. Most often, the medium outside the cabinet is the air in the lab, although it is possible to have a system that employs a liquid, such as water, in place of air. It is important to understand that an air cooled system delivers a net heat gain to the surrounding space. That rejected heat must be removed or otherwise dissipated to keep the space from overheating.
  • Controls - Unbridled operation of the cooling system will not deliver the predictable temperature performance needed for laboratory settings. A controller, in its most basic configuration, must be able to accurately measure the chamber temperature and regulate the operation of the cooling system in response to changes in that temperature.

What are some things to do, or be aware of, with refrigerator operation?

  • Doors - Doors are part of the cabinet containment that keeps cold air from escaping and warm air from entering. They should operate smoothly, without requiring undo force to open or close. When closed, the doors should set firmly against their sealing surfaces and any gaskets should be kept clean and free of dirt and grit that can inhibit sealing and lead to premature deterioration. A simple periodic inspection and wipe down with a wet cloth will go a long way toward maintaining good performance. Doors that creak or squeak when operated should be further examined for excessive hinge or bearing wear, possibly in need of lubrication.
  • Condenser - This is the device that ejects heat to the surrounding space on the example air cooled unit. On most refrigerators, the condenser will be located either on the top of the cabinet or in a compartment below the cabinet. To locate the condenser, look for louvers or a grille that permits air to flow to the condenser. It is important that air be able to flow freely across and through the condenser. If the fins on the condenser become clogged or blocked with dust, pieces of paper, tape, bags, plastic, or anything else that inhibits free air flow, the cooling capacity of the system will be reduced. Excessive blockage can cause the equipment to fail. A simple cleaning can be accomplished with a vacuum cleaner or a flow of compressed air. Even if you are not the person who will ultimately clean the condenser, it is important to know when to schedule the maintenance to be done.
  • Evaporator - Inside the refrigerator there will be a fan unit that also houses a finned evaporator. The chamber air flows across the evaporator surface and is cooled by evaporating refrigerant. Keep the air flow passage free of accumulated dust and debris that may block air movement through the fan housing and across the evaporator. Sometimes pieces of plastic film or paper can get loose in the refrigerator and be drawn into the inlet side of the evaporator, blocking some of the air flow. In most cases, it is just useful to inspect and recognize when service might be needed. 
  • Temperature - Over time, you will grow accustomed to normal refrigerator performance. Any long term excursion of chamber temperature outside of the expected performance range is cause for a service call. There is only one way that operation will be right, but a vast number of ways that it can go wrong. A short term, probably no more than one hour, temperature excursion out of range likely is the result of excessive heat load. The most common causes of this are large additions of warm mass to the chamber or excessive door opening time or frequency. Any temperature anomaly that lasts longer than about one hour is cause for diagnosis by a qualified technician.
A lab refrigerator is not a piece of equipment that garners close scrutiny by lab occupants. The best plan may be to have a qualified technician inspect the equipment on a regular basis. Inspections are generally inexpensive and can often be scheduled along with regular maintenance of other equipment in the lab. Share your questions and concerns about laboratory refrigeration applications for all temperatures and sizes with application experts. Combining your own on site knowledge and experience with their product application expertise will result in an effective solution.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Refrigerators for Laboratory Applications

laboratory refrigerators
Several different types of laboratory refrigerators
Image courtesy Powers Scientific
Many laboratories have a need for refrigerated space. The requirements for that space vary widely enough to support a very broad range of refrigerated cabinets, providing variants and optional features that meet every need. Refrigerators tend to last for a long time, so it's practical to make a considered decision when procuring one for the lab. Here are some items to include when selecting a new lab refrigerator.

  • Materials to be Stored: Certain flammable materials requiring cold storage must be kept in a refrigerator specifically designed and rated for the storage of those materials. Less hazardous materials can be accommodated by a wider variety of choices. 
  • Storage Temperature: Determine the most sensitive content for the proposed refrigerator. What are the highest and lowest temperatures providing suitable storage conditions? Lab refrigerators are generally not precision control chambers. Know the requirements of your contents and the capabilities of the refrigerator. Make sure they are compatible.
  • Controls and Monitoring: What are your needs for control, display, and monitoring of cabinet temperature? Is a dial thermometer a sufficient temperature indicator, or is a digital display more appropriate? There are many options available. Think about how temperature should be monitored and out of range occurrences handled. Keep in mind that electronic controls will not function during a power failure without a backup power source. Maintaining documentation of chamber temperature under all conditions may require inclusion of battery backup for data logging and alarm devices.
  • Cabinet Size: Lab refrigerators are available in sizes ranging from a few cubic feet to units as large as a grocery store display line. Take the time to make a layout of your storage needs, everything that will go in the refrigerator. This will help in determining the best size for your application. 
  • Doors: The refrigerator doors are the user interface for the unit. They are what you touch every time the refrigerator is accessed. Make sure the selected doors meet the application needs for interior visibility, security, and ease of access. Also take into account the space where the refrigerator will be installed. Sliding doors do not encroach on the surrounding space, as a hinged door would.
  • Heat Rejection: An often overlooked aspect of lab refrigerator operation is where the heat removed from the chamber interior will go. A refrigeration system is a heat transfer machine, taking heat from the chamber air and rejecting it from the condenser. The condenser is usually air cooled, resulting in that heat being released into the space where the refrigerator is installed. There must be an identified path for that rejected heat to be further transferred out of the installation space, otherwise the space will increase in temperature until the refrigeration unit fails. If an assessment of the proposed installation space for the refrigerator fails to identify sufficient ventilation, there are several refrigeration system schemes that can be substituted for the self-contained condenser most often seen on lab refrigerators.
  • Accessories: There are more available options and accessories for laboratory refrigerators than could be included here. Users should describe to potential vendors the manner in which the refrigerator will be used. Refrigerators employed as simple cold storage units will have a simple set of requirements. Those used as part of a process may have very special configuration requirements. 
  • Transit: Some lab refrigerators are quite large. Of course, you should measure the space where the unit is to be installed, making sure there is a fit. Do not forget to verify that the equipment must pass through all the doors, hallways, elevators, and other spaces that make up the path from delivery point to installation point.
There is much more detail that may be involved in making the best selection. Enlisting the assistance of a laboratory equipment specialist will help speed you through the selection process and create a successful purchase, delivery, and installation plan. 

Friday, July 28, 2017

Atlantic Technology Group Additional Services

presentation to stakeholders in laboratory project
We have written previously about the contribution of a technical sales representative and the added value he or she can bring to the purchase of a physical product. With a daunting array of potential product variants available, it can be difficult and time consuming to reach a knowledge level that enables a confident selection of laboratory equipment for a specialized application. The tech sales rep's knowledge of currently available products and their application virtues and limitations can speed the selection process and contribute to a positive outcome for all stakeholders.

At the company level, many technical representatives commit to bringing factory level training resources to their customers. Reading instruction manuals can often fail to instill real understanding about the application, use, and upkeep of complex laboratory gear. Plus, manuals provide only one way communication. Training conducted by experienced, knowledgeable, factory trained individuals can instill almost tangible levels of comprehension in operators, users, and supporters of laboratory and process equipment.

Field services, in the form of start-up, calibration, repair, or regular maintenance of instruments and equipment are also provided by many technical sales firms. Again, bringing to bear broad experience and factory level training, technical representatives can function as an efficient outsource or reference for essential tasks that may require special skills or knowledge. Repair, whether in-house or facilitated through the factory, is another way in which technical representatives leverage their experience and knowledge into offerings that bring value to their customer base.

Face it, if all that was needed was quick delivery of lab equipment, would be your primary supplier. These are sophisticated instruments, apparatus, and equipment, requiring skill, knowledge, and experience to assure proper selection, installation and operation. A good technical rep firm knows that its customers need more than a product in a box or crate. It's results that count, and Atlantic Technology Group is committed to assisting customers wherever ATG's expertise can help leverage positive outcomes for their customers.

Make Good Use of the Technical Sales Representative

industrial engineers specialists solving project challenges
When faced with a challenge on your project, get people
involved with expertise that you may lack.
Laboratory and process equipment are often sold with the support of sales engineers working for the local distributor or representative. Realizing what these specialists have to contribute, taking advantage of their knowledge and talent, will help save time and cost, contributing to a better project outcome.

Consider these contributions:

Product Knowledge: Sales engineers, by the nature of their job, are current on new products, their capabilities and their proper application. Unlike information available on the Web, sales engineers get advanced notice of product obsolescence and replacement. Also, because they are exposed to so many different types of applications and situations, sales engineers are a wealth of tacit knowledge that they readily share with their customers.

Experience: As a project engineer or leader, you may be treading on fresh ground regarding some aspects of your current assignment. You may not have a full grasp on how to handle a particular challenge presented by a project. Call in the local sales person - there can be real benefit in connecting to a source with past exposure to your current issue.

Access: Through a technical sales engineer, you may be able to look “behind the scenes” with a particular manufacturer and garner important information not publicly available. Sales reps deal with people, making connections between customers and manufacturer's support personnel who may not normally be public facing. They make it their business to know what’s going on with products, companies, and industries.

Of course, sales engineers will be biased. Any solutions proposed are likely to be based upon the products sold by the representative. But the best sales people will share the virtues of their products openly and honestly, and even admit when they don’t have the right product. This is where the discussion, consideration and evaluation of several solutions become part of achieving the best project outcome.

Whatever your stake in an upcoming or ongoing project, it's highly recommended you develop a professional, mutually beneficial relationship with a technical sales expert, a problem solver. Look at a relationship with the local sales engineer as symbiotic. Their success, and your success, go hand-in-hand.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Modular Wall Systems as Barrier Wall in Wash Area

laboratory animal cage wash area clean side
Laboratory animal cage wash area, clean side.
Image courtesy Avant Garde Scientific
There are many instances in laboratory facilities and other industrial processing sites of a need for isolation between one phase of a process and another. In laboratory animal care facilities, there is a pronounced need for isolation of the entry side of cage, rack, and ware cleaning from the exit side.

The entry side is commonly called the dirty side, since items entering that area are destined to be cleaned. The exit side is known as the clean side. It is good practice to not only install a physical barrier between the two sides, but also to establish procedures to assure that personnel, carts, or other equipment does not transit from dirty to clean side without first being properly treated.

Barrier walls are architectural building features, but almost an integral part of the equipment installed in the cage washing area. The walls and machines must be properly mated to provide an impenetrable seal that disallows passage of fluids, even air and vapor, from the dirty side to the clean side. Accomplishing this requires a considerable degree of care in the coordination of cage washing or sterilizing equipment configuration and building features at the installation site. The role of the barrier wall is essentially to fill in all the gaps between the machinery and the building features, providing the positive seal and barrier that is needed.

Materials of construction for the barrier wall should accommodate the type of service and operation anticipated for the cage wash area. Gaskets, fasteners and surface materials need to withstand repeated exposure to cleaning and sanitizing agents that may be employed in the area. The surface of the wall, often stainless steel, as well as the supporting structure, needs to be of sufficient thickness and strength to withstand the inevitable impact of heavy wheeled carts or other potentially damaging items.

Cage wash areas, once completed, will be depended upon to provide continuous service for many years. The barrier wall should be specified, designed and installed with that timeline in mind. Share your laboratory animal cage washing challenges with process specialists, combining your own knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Esco IsoClean Pharmacy Isolators

Drug compounding at pharmacy facilities presents a potential source of contamination, as well as a hazard to the compounding technician as well. IsoClean Pharmacy Isolators provide a physical barrier between the compounding materials and the surrounding environment. Product and operator protection are maintained using one of several appropriate product configurations designed to accommodate the specific needs of compounding processes.

The video provides an overview of the various product configurations, how the they work to provide the appropriate protection for operations employing hazardous and non-hazardous materials. Share your operational requirements with an application expert for help in selecting the best product configuration for your application range.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Activated Carbon in Water Purification

laboratory technician dispensing purified water
Activated carbon may be an essential part
of almost any water purification system.
Photo Courtesy of Elga Lab Water
Activated carbon is utilized as a processing or purification step in many water purification systems. It's effectiveness in removing a range of organic compounds from raw water supplies is well known.

Carbon, of course, is a very common earthly element. Activated carbon, also called activated charcoal, often uses charcoal as processing feedstock. Special processing produces a very porous material with a very large effective surface area. The expanded surface area increases the carbon's capacity for adsorption, the collecting of molecules, atoms, or ions on the surface layer of the activated carbon. Activated carbon excels at adsorbing a variety of organic compounds often found in raw or municipal water supplies.

Laboratory applications using purified water will generally include at least one step that targets the removal of organic impurities. Depending on the targeted final water quality, the size of the system, and several other factors, activated carbon may play an important role.

There are numerous water purification technologies in use throughout industrial, commercial, residential, and laboratory settings. Determining the best combination and implementation of these technologies to produce the desired water quality with high reliability and reasonable cost is the job of equipment application specialists. Share your water quality and usage requirements with them for effective solutions.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What Gets Laboratory Glassware Clean?

laboratory glassware
Directing the forces that get glassware clean to every surface
is the task of a laboratory glassware washing machine
As mentioned before in a previous posting...."Glassware washing, in the laboratory setting, is an unglamorous but necessary task. Glassware utilized at almost any point in an analytical procedure needs to come with an assurance that there is no residual material left over from any previous use. The operation, if accomplished manually, raises practical concerns about quality control and effective use of valuable human resources."
Understanding how a glassware washing machine cleans your glassware can help in obtaining the best results from machine use. 
Simply described, there are two main cleaning forces or actions at work during a wash program. Dissolution involves the solvent action of water, often aided by chemicals, on contaminates on the wash load. The second major cleaning component is mechanical removal of soils and contaminates, accomplished with impingement (blasting the dirt off with direct spray) and a cascading flow of wash or rinse water.

Looking at these two cleaning forces, there are some other factors that are related to their overall effectiveness.

  • Time - Longer cycle times will deliver higher overall levels of load exposure to cleaning forces.
  • Temperature - Some types of contaminates are best removed with high temperature wash fluid, others with at least part of the wash program using cooler temperature. 
  • Chemicals - The solvent power of the wash solution can be significantly enhanced by using the right chemical additive. Matching wash chemicals to the demands of the wash load is a key element in achieving good results in a reasonable amount of time.
  • Contact - Nothing listed above has any impact unless the wash program solution makes full and repeated contact with all surfaces of the load. 
What does all this mean to the lab operator or technician trying to get clean glassware?
It is necessary to know the nature of the soil or contaminates on the wash load. This allows the proper selection of temperature and chemicals for the wash program, and the program sequence. Separating soiled glassware into groups according to wash program is a useful procedure, matching the soil or contaminant with the right program, temperature, and chemicals to remove it.

Loading the washer is also an important step in the cleaning process. Operators should understand how wash fluid flows through the machine and any special processing carriers or racks. Improper loading can prevent sufficient contact between wash fluids and load surfaces, reducing the effectiveness of the wash program.

This is a very general description. Each topic covered has depth and detail that needs to be explored enough to determine an effective wash plan for your lab. Technical help and information is available from glassware manufacturers, wash chemical suppliers, and wash equipment specialists.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Machine Washing of Laboratory Glassware

laboratory glassware washers showing loading racks and glassware
Laboratory glassware washers with loading racks and glassware
ready for processing
Courtesy Miele Professional
Automation and changes to many laboratory tasks and processes has likely reduced the need for reusable glassware in those tasks. Nevertheless, there remain many applications where laboratory glassware and other reusable items are the mainstay. Employing reusable containers, tools, and a host of other specialized items brings with it a responsibility for properly processing, or cleaning, the items after each use.
The goal of laboratory glassware washing is to remove all traces of the previous tasks in which the glassware was employed.
It's really that simple. Ideally, no traces of anything but glass. Laboratory measurements can be highly sensitive, so meeting the gold standard for clean glassware requires some knowledge and skill.
  • Know the nature of the contaminants on the glassware.
  • Know how to properly remove those contaminants.
  • Establish a procedure that, when properly executed, thoroughly removes the contaminants.
  • Execute the procedure in accordance with established steps.
Hand washing is one way to process reusable glassware, and in some special cases may be the best or only available way to accomplish the task. Here are some characteristics of glassware washing by hand.
  • Manual operation, completely accomplished with human labor.
  • All facets of cleaning operation subject to adjustment, intentionally or accidentally, by the washing technician.
  • Process one item at a time, resulting in substantial time commitment to the operation.
  • Air dry at room temperature, unless a separate oven is used.
  • Potentially, some limitation on exposure of washed items to high temperature water due to supply temperature irregularity or evaporative cooling.
  • Extensive handling of fragile glassware can lead to breakage.
  • Inventory of brushes, gloves, drying racks, and other items needed for processing must be maintained and replenished as needed.
  • Initial investment is low.
  • Personnel training component can be high, in cases where high quality work is needed and employee turnover may be a factor.
Glassware washing machines, specially purposed for processing laboratory glassware, can overcome a number of the efficiency and quality concerns that can be associated with manual washing. Here are some characteristics of automated glassware washers.
  • Initial investment is high when compared to manual washing.
  • All facets of the operation, except loading and unloading, are automated and require no human intervention under normal operation.
  • Capable washing equipment provides multiple stored programs with differing washing protocols needed for effectively processing various types of glassware or other items.
  • Controller runs and monitors the operation of the machine through selected cycle to assure the correct wash procedure is followed.
  • Process multiple items at a time.
  • Washing machines can include a heated drying cycle.
  • Water temperature is maintained at the proper level throughout the timed cycle phases.
  • Inventory of holders, supports, or racks for processing the glassware inventory of the lab.
  • Minimized use of human labor for the washing operation.
Each lab operation can choose between either the hand or machine washing methods. Share your lab glassware washing requirements and challenges with lab equipment professionals, combining your own experience and knowledge with their equipment application expertise to develop an effective solution.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Rigid Sided Anaerobic Glove Boxes - Theory of Design

Rigid anaerobic chamber glove box with airlock
Rigid construction anaerobic glove box with airlock
Courtesy Coy Lab Products
There are numerous threads of scientific research that require small environments with extremely low levels of oxygen. This anaerobic environment requires isolation from the surrounding atmosphere and a means to scavenge trace amounts of oxygen that inevitably get into the closed environment. It is also, in many cases, necessary to provide a means to transfer materials into and out of the chamber during use, as well as to allow operators to manipulate materials within the chamber.

One method applied to remove infiltrated oxygen is through the use of a catalyst within the chamber to react the oxygen with hydrogen, producing water vapor. This can be accomplished with a small fan enclosure that continuously or intermittently circulates chamber air across a palladium chloride coated alumina substrate. The palladium chloride supports the oxygen-hydrogen reaction, while the alumina substrate serves to absorb the water vapor. The fan must be properly sized and operated on a schedule that will treat the chamber atmosphere at a rate that is suitable for the application. Larger fan and catalyst combinations will produce larger turnover rates for the chamber atmosphere, along with faster recovery of anaerobic conditions.

For the movement of materials into and out of the work zone, an airlock is provided. The airlock enables isolation of the chamber interior work zone from the surrounding atmosphere and limits that amount of atmospheric air entering the chamber when materials are introduced to the anaerobic work zone. The capacity of the catalyst system is coordinated with the size of the airlock to provide rapid removal of the known quantity of oxygen introduced to the chamber each time the airlock is cycled.

Sealed glove ports provide an operator with the ability to hold and manipulate the contents of the chamber. Proper maintenance of the gloves and their mounting to the ports is essential to maintaining anaerobic conditions in the chamber. Because some degree of physical stress is placed on the glove mountings during normal use of the chamber, regular inspection of their seals is good practice.

Oxygen will diffuse into the chamber during normal operation. A source of hydrogen gas must be used to provide sufficient quantities to enable effective catalyst operation. A special gas mix can be used to purge the airlock that serves to reduce the oxygen level of the airlock and provides sufficient hydrogen to process the introduced oxygen, as well.

This is but a general description of how the system functions. Share your anaerobic process and research challenges with a product application specialist, combining your own process knowledge and experience with their product application expertise to develop the best solution for your application.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Technical Sales Representatives Add Value

chemical lab technician chemist
Equipment specialists can help lab and process operators
navigate to effective solutions
Laboratory equipment is often sold with the support of sales engineers working at the local or regional level. Realizing what these specialists have to contribute, taking advantage of their knowledge and talent, will help save time and cost and contribute to a better outcome when specifying, purchasing and installing laboratory equipment.

Consider these contributions:

Product Knowledge: Specialized sales engineers, by the nature of their job, have product knowledge that is both broad and deep. They are also current on new products, their capabilities and their proper application. Unlike information available on the Web, sales engineers can get advanced notice of product obsolescence and replacement options, new technologies coming to the market, and more. Also, because they are exposed to so many different types of applications and situations, sales engineers are a wealth of tacit knowledge that they readily share with their customers.

Experience: Whether a project engineer, lab manager, or researcher, you may be treading on fresh ground regarding many aspects of a major equipment purchase. You may not have a full grasp on how to handle a particular challenge presented by a project. Call in the technical sales rep - there can be real benefit in connecting to a source with past exposure to your current issue.

Access: Through a technical sales engineer, you may be able to look “behind the scenes” with a particular manufacturer and garner important information not publicly available. Sales reps deal with people, making connections between customers and manufacturer's support personnel that may not normally be public facing. They make it their business to know what’s going on with products, companies, and industries.

Of course, sales engineers will be biased. Any solutions proposed are likely to be based upon the products sold by the representative. But the best sales people will share the virtues of their products openly and honestly, and tell you when they do not have the right product for your application. This is where the discussion, consideration and evaluation of several solutions becomes part of achieving the best project outcome.

As a stakeholder in process or laboratory operation, it's highly recommended you develop a professional, mutually beneficial relationship with a laboratory and process equipment specialist, a problem solver. Look at a relationship with the local sales engineer as symbiotic. Their success, and your success, go hand-in-hand.