3 MIN READ
Laboratory technicians and scientists use vacuum pumps for a range of tasks, from aspirating and filtering, to controlling or inducing solvent evaporation in concentrators. Vacuum pumps can also be found in gel dryers, vacuum ovens, desiccators, rotary evaporators, and, perhaps most notably, mass spectrometers.
There are several factors to consider when choosing the right vacuum pump system for your lab.
Traditionally, scientists and technicians have mainly used oil-sealed rotary vane vacuum pumps for lab work. However, these pumps come with a few disadvantages, because they:
Require regular oil top-ups
Are expensive to run
Release some oil mist into the immediate atmosphere (even with oil filter hardware)
As a response to these drawbacks, dry (i.e. oil-free) pump systems have emerged as a favorable alternative. However, you will still need to think about your laboratory's needs in order to select the right pump system for you.
Here's a list of factors you should consider when making your decision:
What exactly will you be using the pump system for? Pump application determines the pressure ranges that the system will be required to service. Check out a pressure-range chart to determine pump choices available for your desired range.
Related: Are you looking for the right pump for your application? We can help! With our online Pump Finder Tool it's quick and easy.
Watch out for loud pumps! A noisy pump may severely disrupt the quiet working conditions expected in a typical laboratory environment.
Related: Read 5 Quick Facts About Noise Pollution in Your Lab to know more about the topic.
Some pumps are more likely than others to result in contamination (either in the gases being processed or those being expelled), particularly oil-sealed rotary vane pumps. Even with oil-filter hardware in place, these pumps invariably release small quantities of oil into the processed gas. Also, captured and recycled oils need to be purged to remove condensate, a process that releases some oil mist into the laboratory environment. To avoid these side effects, opt for dry pump systems.
These are three interconnected factors you need to consider when choosing a pump system. A pump unit that is too large will result in an unnecessarily large footprint. Large units are also difficult to control, especially if small, precise flows are required.
There are a number of costs you need to take into consideration. Aside from the initial investment and ongoing energy costs, expect to keep up with several maintenance requirements, including:
Replacing consumables (e.g. oil changes)
Replacing disposables (e.g. filter elements)
Hiring manpower to service the pump
While oil-sealed rotary vane pumps have traditionally been used for their reliability, low cost, and proven technology, their advantages are quickly being eclipsed by those of dry pumps. Dry pumps:
Do not contaminate the process gases or the surrounding environment
Produce low levels of noise
Enjoy long service intervals
Do not require costly oil replacements and disposals
Selecting the right vacuum pump system can help you increase lab productivity and make day-to-day tasks easier and more convenient. However, the wrong choice can lead to contamination, poor results that interfere with scientific objectives, increased maintenance costs, and an unpleasant working environment.
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