As the exploration of analytical-scale and micro-scale applications has increased among organizations and universities, so has the ability to safely weigh, transfer and use nano-materials. Advances within the field of nanotechnology have introduced new materials and products to researchers and end-users in the medical, energy, aeronautics and environmental fields, to name a few. Despite the robustness of the research and development community and their continued dedication to safe workplace practices, there is little regulation governing personnel and environmental exposure risks.


Until such a time that safe handling standards come on line, Flow Sciences’ specialty low-flow containment hoods will help laboratories meet or exceed their own in-house safety benchmarks, which means a cleaner, safer work environment and reduced exposure risk to personnel.


For the last five years, Flow Sciences has found their customers increasingly concerned with the safe weighing and handling of micro- and nano-gram materials (often falling in the sub 100 parts per 1,000 m3 range) and have responded by studying the varying levels of toxicity, chemical and physical properties of nano-materials. From their research, they have developed low-flow containment hoods ideal for nano-applications on the research and development side.


“Because of the size of the particles personnel in nanotechnology are working with – we’re talking about the macro scale here – the need to protect their breathing zone is of particular concern,” says Steve Janz, Vice President of Marketing and Business Development.


Flow Sciences’ containment hoods use engineered solutions to contain potentially hazardous particles within the unit. A removable plenum and high-speed impeller fan create the ideal air pressure and speed within the hood, while extruded anodized aluminum airfoils smooth and direct the airflow. As air sweeps across the opening, it creates a curtain, forcing loose particles to stay contained within the hood, out of the laboratory and away from lab personnel.


Though many of Flow Sciences’ low-flow containment hoods have been used in nanotech applications in the medical and pharmaceutical world, industries across the spectrum are seeking solutions for their carbon nanotubes, lithium batteries, rare earth metal processing and other potent materials.


“Lately, aerospace organizations and researchers have been using the [nanotech] hoods to safely develop new carbon fiber applications,” Janz says. “There’s a huge need for these products within aerospace and carbon nanotube manufacturing.”


Recently, representatives from Flow Sciences presented at the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health’s gathering of academic and industry experts on “Prevention Through Design,” specifically on safe nano-material handling. Their cutting edge experience with powders and innovative containment solutions matches well with the challenges of working with nano-materials in a variety of industries.


Jason Frye produced this story with the assistance of Flow Sciences Inc., which produces containment systems for laboratories, pilot plants and manufacturers. These products are designed to protect operators from exposure to hazardous particulates and vapors while performing delicate operations.


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