Laboratories can often have some pretty sophisticated pieces of equipment. Certain kinds of equipment can be so important that they maintain a pretty much constant presence from lab to lab. Regardless of whether that lab is geared more toward pure scientific research or whether it tends to focus more on the practical side of engineering and design. Without question, laminar airflow hoods are one of these mainstays.
Laminar airflow hoods (often also called laminar flow benches or workstations) are special tools meant to prevent particulate contamination in experimental settings. Each one typically consists of a workbench enclosed by a stainless steel cabinet and further surrounded by glass or some similar tough but transparent material. One side of the enclosure also contains an opening, allowing a researcher to reach in and perform whatever work he needs to within that sterile environment.
What makes the environment sterile is a high-powered air filter, like a HEPA or ULPA filter. The filter sucks in air and filters out contaminants. Then releases the air back into the enclosure without making filtered and unfiltered air currents mingle with each other.
RDM Industrial Products manufactures industrial-quality laminar flow workstations and can custom design them to meet your lab’s specific needs. But why do lab’s need these things at all? Here are ten reasons why every respectable lab should havelaminar airflow hoods.
1. Airflow Hoods Enforce Sterility in Experimental Environments
The primary function of a laminar flow workstation is to decontaminate the air in its special enclosed environment. In any kind of sensitive experiment where the slightest contaminant or disturbance can throw everything off, the importance of this cannot be overstated. Labs doing any kind of precision experimental work should really have laminar flow hoods in their toolkits.
2. The Filters Can Remove Between 99.99% and 99.9995% of All Particles From the Air
Every laminar flow bench must at least meet HEPA standards for air filtration. Since RDM’s factory-direct equipment is all proudly manufactured in the USA, the filters used in our laminar flow hoods meet all such standards. Specifically, our HEPA (High-Efficiency Particulate Air) filters can remove 99.99% of all particles from the air with diameters of 0.3 microns or more. For those with even more stringent filtration needs, we also make laminar flow clean air workstation with ULPA (Ultra Low Particulate Air) filters. Meaning that they can remove 99.9995% of all particles from the air which are at least 0.12 microns in diameter.
3. Laminar Airflow Hoods Help Keep Researchers Safe
Closely related to their ability to remove even infinitesimal contaminants from the air is their consequent ability to keep researchers safe if the contaminants in question happen to be hazardous. There are three broad classes of laminar flow clean air workstations.
Class I workstations are meant primarily to insulate researchers from exposure to toxic fumes, vapors, dust, or chemicals released in chemical reactions.
Class II workstations are designed to facilitate biological and microbiological experiments by making sure that the surrounding air is totally sterile and doesn’t contaminate cell culture.
Class III workstations are designed for maximal safety. They are usually walk-in cabinets or glove boxes. They do not allow for the passage of any gases to the outside and are suitable for handling extremely dangerous material.
All three of these classes of laminar flow benches have great safeguards in place to protect researchers and lab workers from harm.
4. They Are Very Useful in Biological Laboratories
Researchers testing the effects of various compounds upon biological matter will benefit greatly from laminar flow hoods. The hood’s ability to purify the air helps ensure that the study of any compound’s effects on living cell cultures will be truly controlled. Furthermore, if researchers need to handle something potentially dangerous like a virus, Class III laminar airflow hoods may be just what they require to carry on their sensitive work.
5. They Can Work Wonders in Medical Labs
Because safety and precision can go such a long way in science, laminar flow HEPA workstations can be similarly useful in medical labs. It may be necessary to trigger precise chemical reactions in order to synthesize certain pharmaceutical drugs, and the slightest outside pollutant may mar the delicate balance required to sustain the reaction. Testing the virus- or bacteria-killing properties of various drugs upon cell cultures also requires an uncontaminated environment, as do other careful medical tasks like virus isolation. Proper experimental controls are important in all kinds of scientific work, and laminar flow hoods are great tools to help create them.
6. They Are Critical in Electronics Design Labs
Many electronic components need to be built with extreme precision. As microprocessors get smaller, the grooves on each chip will have to be designed increasingly carefully in order to keep them functional. High-precision machines must solder microchips now, but if even the slightest contaminant gets into the air and throws off the machine’s work by even a fraction of a millimeter, the chip will be useless. Laminar flow HEPA workstations are required to keep this delicate process running smoothly.
7. They Can Be Designed to Be Static, Flame or Chemical-Resistant
We often outfit our laminar flow hoods with special features according to the requests of our clients. Since safety is of the essence in so much laboratory work, you may require your laminar flow workbench to be fire-resistant, chemical-and-corrosion-resistant, static-resistant, or some combination of all three. We can coat a workstation in a removable ESD Static Dissipative material at your request, build one with chemical-resistant trespa or construct the hood’s enclosure with flame-resistant stainless steel.
8. Vertical and Horizontal Laminar Flow Hoods Cater to Different Needs
Labs can use either horizontal laminar flow hoods or vertical laminar flow hoods. A horizontal laminar flow hood will suck in air from the back of the unit and expel it towards the front. A vertical laminar flow hood will take in air from the top of the unit and release it down towards the bottom. If you need work surface depth and low turbulence, or if you are working with smaller samples, opt for the former. If easy access, compactness, and the ability to simply install the food and filter onto a standard workbench are important to you, go with the latter. RDM designs both kinds.
9. Wide Customizability
Beyond the variety of features already mentioned, RDM can custom design various other features for you. Including workbench height, work surface depth and width, types of light fixtures used to illuminate the work surface, power cord length, and power options, and more. We look forward to designing just the right laminar flow clean air workstations to meet the particular needs of your lab.
10. Airflow Hoods Are Eco-Friendly and Economical
Though a laminar flow bench is a complex and variegated piece of equipment, once it’s up and running, things are fairly simple. It typically uses a power that plugs into the wall and doesn’t consume much electricity at all. They recycle the air in the room and allow carbon-saturated air to be easily disposed of, so they are environmentally friendly. After they are installed, the only maintenance costs typically come from yearly filter replacements. Filters can cost anywhere from as little as $300 each to about $2,000.
Laminar airflow hoodsare essential to any laboratory that does any kind of precision and careful scientific or engineering work — which is to say, virtually every self-respecting laboratory whatsoever. No lab is truly complete without it. And RDM stands ready to give you any type of model your need and customize it to a long list of exact particulars. Have a look at some of our industrial-quality laminar flow clean air workstations today and take your lab up to the next level.