reservoirs, but Elga also provides a strategic planning service that
helps a laboratory determine the needs for a particular laboratory,
whether it's an analytical facility using HPLC or a biotechnology
laboratory using gel preparation and DNA or cell analysis.
The process approach to gas supply
Several types of gases are used frequently enough to require centralized, point-source supply, especially for wet laboratory spaces.
Vacuum and pneumatic supplies are also common and may be point-source or centralized.
When equipping a new laboratory with a gas supply, the primary
question is: What’s the outer limit of the research activities? Without
a clear idea of what tasks will be performed, the laboratory operator is
at risk of having too little capacity when needed, or wasting money on
overbuilt, oversupplied systems.
This is why gas supply companies often advocate for early involvement in the laboratory outfitting process. By lending their experience
early in the process, gas suppliers can educate architectural and engineering (A&E) firms. By comparing the installations with prior projects,
suppliers can make recommendations, such as whether to pursue point-source solutions, before the plans go to the architect.
The gas suppliers can also work with the laboratory planner to seamlessly integrate laboratory solutions.
Airgas, Radnor, Pa., sponsors lunch-and-learn sessions with these
A&E companies. These sessions are useful reminders about the importance of a safely designed system, the costly consequences in an error of
control or gas management and the options available for guaranteeing
At these sessions, Airgas engineers often share stories about buildings that have been installed without the proper optimization, leading
to some costly errors. At a bioscience facility, for example, failure of a
simple cyrogenic control valve during off hours can render tens of thousands of dollars worth of RNA samples completely useless.
At Pittcon 2014, Airgas released a guide to gas delivery geared specifically to users of highly sensitive scientific equipment. Called the “The Chro-matographer’s Guide to Gas and Gas Delivery Systems”, the guide offers
detailed information on how to build and maintain gas supply systems
for gas chromatography. Proper component selection can ensure process
accuracy, extend component life and create necessary consistencies.
In addition to education, Airgas provides a service called Outlook that
helps synchronize efforts to reduce cylinder balances, gas consumption,
gas-related incidents and time-consuming paperwork that goes with
procuring gases, welding and safety products. According to the company,
this has saved customers more than $11 million in the past 20 years. The
service also helps customers identify trends in their gas usage and pinpoints issues in supply, purity and safety.
At Matheson, Basking Ridge, N.J., the approach to assisting laboratories
with upgrades or changes to their supply is to treat each customer as a special, custom case. Every user’s needs are different. However, small upgrades
are the norm; and one of the most common today is the adoption of a modern single-body switchover regulator that reduces the number of leak points
and protects against system failure in the event of a power outage.
Other common cases include increased hydrogen use, necessitating
the addition of a proton exchange membrane generator, which Mathe-
son installs. Others need to upgrade from older forged regulators to
achieve higher purity levels for their instrumentation.
Like Airgas, Matheson favors working closely with A&E firms during
the laboratory design process. In addition to consultation, 3-D modeling
capabilities are well established, and in-house designers can contribute
when an installation becomes large or complicated. Typically, the need
for Matheson’s services depends largely on how many instruments the
laboratory operators will supply. This will dictate the variety and quantity of the supplied gases, whether a bulk supply source is needed and
whether high-flow switchovers will be utilized.
“We have a dedicated program for this type of application. We like to
work with the A&E firms and we’ll inform them about the different kinds
of equipment that are available and provide our contacts so they can reach
us with questions about design,” says Ron Geib, product and technology
marketing manager, Chemical and Specialty Gas Group, Matheson.
In the early days, says Geib, Matheson’s engineers would frequently
deal directly with individual researchers to arrive at solutions. Now, contractors are in place to work with Matheson, and selecting the right size
equipment to match with pressures and flow rates that might change is a
challenge. In the past year, Matheson has formalized a lot of the information that was being distributed to A&E firms in an effort to simplify the
process for them.
Streamlined service is a priority for Matheson, but product development is also a continuous process. Later this year, says Geib, the company
plans to introduce a new set of technologies that will allow people to
track gas pressures and gas usage automatically, and gather that information in a centralized place.
Gas control now welcomes strategic approaches
This holistic approach to gas supply installation isn’t limited to the three
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