Laminar flow cabinets are one of the things that are essential for any laboratory. They help with experiments and they ensure that the environment stays safe and sterile while you are working. While people understand their uses, they do not fully understand how they work or the types of laminar flow cabinets that are available. With laminar flow, you are able to create a working space in which there are no contaminants at all.
This is at times a mandatory requirement for work depending on the type of field you are in. Here is an overview of the different types of laminar flow cabinets and how they work to ensure your lab stays safe and sterile.
What is Laminar Flow
The first thing to address is what exactly is laminar flow. Laminar flow means that the fluid or gas is moving in a smooth and regular path. This is in contrast to turbulent flow where the particles can flow in any direction at any point. A laminar flow cabinet means that the air within the cabinet itself will be traveling in a smooth flow.
The first question to look at when it comes to laminar flow cabinets is how they are used and who uses them. Typically speaking, laminar flow cabinets are used in the medical, pharmaceutical, electronic, and industrial fields. You will find them used in combination with fume cupboards as well as defending on the type of work.
How they Work
Laminar flow cabinets are a type of fume hood that takes extra steps to ensure that the air space stays clean and sterile. Why is this important? Certain small objects such as particle sensitive electronic devices might be affected by certain chemicals in the area, even in trace amounts. A laminar flow cabinet will ensure that all of this is filtered out, creating a sterile environment for you to work in. There are plenty of power saving options available as well, allowing you to find a cabinet that works for you in your lab.
The biggest difference between a laminar flow cabinet and a fume cupboard is how they handle fumes. The purpose of a fume cupboard is to ensure that any fumes produced by chemicals within the cupboard itself are ventilated properly out of the building. This ensures that no one is at risk of inhaling harmful chemicals. Air from the lab can still enter the fume hood however and interact with the experiments. A laminar flow cabinet on the other hand works to protect the samples from the air within the lab. There are several filters in place to stop this and it will preserve your experiment as mentioned in the example above. Therefore, your lab should have both a standard fume cupboard along a laminar flow cabinet so that you are able to conduct all types of experiments. From here, however, you now have to look at the different types of laminar flow cabinets and see what works better for you.
Horizontal Laminar Flow Cabinets
Laminar flow cabinets are not able to keep all air out of the environment, however, they do their best to remove as much of it as possible. From there, whatever air remains is heavily filtered before it can come in contact with the sample. A horizontal laminar flow cabinet allows airflow in from above, however, it is then moved and processed across the product in a horizontal direction. The air is filtered before reaching your product however ensuring that it is not harming whatever work you are doing. Horizontal laminar flow cabinets are the basic version of these clean cabinets and are generally easier and cheaper to obtain than a vertical one.
Vertical Laminar Flow Cabinets
Vertical laminar flow cabinets work just as well as a horizontal laminar flow cabinet. With a vertical flow cabinet, the air enters through the top and instead passes through a series of vertical air filters before it is directed downwards. Vertical flow cabinets generally provide greater operation protection, however, they can be a little pricier than a horizontal cabinet. Therefore, it is up to you to decide if you need this extra layer of protection or not.
This is a basic overview and understanding of what laminar flow is and how it is used in these cabinets to ensure a safe working space. If you are doing any work that requires a product or sample to be preserved and free from contaminants, use a laminar flow cabinet as it will give you the best results. In some experiments, even one particle can change an outcome so take all necessary steps. What type of laminar flow cabinet do you plan on getting for your lab?