New approach to the demanding science of gas analysis.
Speciality gases have long been widely used in laboratories for a range of analyses, where the impurity levels in pure gases and the stability and accuracy of calibration mixtures are critical factors in producing reliable, high quality analytical results.
Over the years, laboratories have become familiar with speciality gases and gas handling equipment which allows them to regulate and control the flow and pressure of gas from cylinders provided. The main benefits have proved to be reliable sources of supply and quick response times.
However, as demand for chemical analysis diversifies and regulations tighten, laboratories are seeking more from their speciality gas supplier and in response, innovative suppliers are developing new solutions to match these emerging requirements.
Trends in gas analysis
Demand for accurate and reliable gas analysis of a wide range of even more complex chemical compounds, in lower and lower concentrations, is increasing rapidly as industry seeks to improve its performance. This increase is driven by competition and by far-reaching European legislation, such as the environmental directives 2001/80/EC and 2000/76/EC. These regulations are designed to ensure industries are reducing all kinds of emissions to the environment, including pollutants such as carbon dioxide (CO2), nitrous oxide (NOx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), acid gases (HCI, HF) and volatile organic compounds.
As a result, zero, carrier and calibration gases are increasingly used in order to test product quality or emissions control for industries including power plants, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, petrochemicals and automotive in addition to their application in the traditional laboratory market.
Meeting industry demands
In a drive to meet the requirements of environmental legislation, these industries are seeking to work with laboratories that are capable of ensuring the highest standards of environmental performance. By using highly accurate speciality gases delivered with ISO 6141 and ISO 17025 calibration certificates, together with equipment that produces precise and reliable measurements, laboratories can support industry, by helping businesses to meet their obligations.
Tightening regulations affecting many industries are also bringing a closer focus on traceability. For example, through de-regulation in Europe, natural gas markets are becoming increasingly competitive. This means it is more necessary than ever to demonstrate value for money. Not only is it important that the commercial value of natural gas (energy content) is precisely known, it is also essential that the quality of natural gas meets the most stringent demands from contracts, regulation and legislation, in addition to all health and safety requirements. To achieve this with minimum uncertainty and minimum cost, the composition of your natural gas must be measured with the greatest possible accuracy. For this reason laboratories are now increasingly requiring highly accurate gases which can be traced to National or International reference standards.
The pharmaceuticals manufacturing industry is another sector that relies on reliable, UHP gases and an assurance of traceability, in order to complete analysis that will allow them to introduce products to the market as quickly as possible. Increasingly, these manufacturers rely on a fast turnaround of stable, accurate and certified gas.
In fact it is this kind of evolution of the market and development of partnerships that is helping to ensure that laboratories and their speciality gas suppliers continue to deliver added value to industry customers, helping them to stay one step ahead of new legislative requirements and competition.
Technological developments are also helping to ensure the quality and reliability of analytical results, while making the gases and gas handling equipment easier to use.
Demand for increasingly complex gas mixtures, sometimes containing reactive gases in very low concentrations, means ensuring gas stability is becoming a real challenge.
Therefore new filling techniques and cylinder treatments have been developed to ensure complex gas mixes are of a consistently high quality. These techniques have been developed based on years of experience in the production and supply of speciality gases and gas mixtures, and draw on detailed knowledge about how individual gas components behave at varying pressures and in different gas mixtures.
Clearly, ensuring accuracy is especially important for gas calibration mixtures, where reactive gases such as NO or HCI are included. Just by applying the right cylinder treatment and altering the way these compounds are weighed and added to the cylinder, we can now significantly enhance stability. These filling techniques and cylinder treatments are especially useful for ppb calibrations where ultra-high stability is critical.
For zero and carrier gases, recent technological advances now mean that external purification is no longer necessary. Instead, patented BIP built-in purification technology inside each cylinder provides gases with less than 10ppb oxygen and less than 20ppb moisture. This is obviously a major step forward and removes a significant hassle factor for the laboratory technician by eliminating the need for external purification equipment and ruling out so-called rogue cylinders.
As demand continues to grow for ever more complex gas requirements, technology will need to keep step by ensuring that even the lowest concentrations of calibration gases are provided with traceability, accuracy and ultra-high stability assured. Gas impurities should also reach the lowest levels possible.
For the busy laboratory carrying out a range of gas analysis, keeping up with the demands of industry and a rapidly changing regulatory framework, will require a new approach. By teaming up with expert suppliers and technological providers, they will be able to work together to develop solutions that will meet the needs of industry now and in the future. Traditional laboratories too, many of which are increasingly carrying out outsourced analyses on behalf of the private sector, will benefit from this approach, gaining access to the latest available technologies. In doing so, these laboratories will be able to operate with peace of mind in the knowledge that their gas analysis activities come with internationally recognised certificates of quality assurance as standard.
By Anne-Catherine Gridelet, Air Products’ marketing specialist analytical and laboratories Europe