When removing fumes from an industrial lab, polypropylene makes an excellent material to use
Seeing rust on a fume hood, at least somewhere, happened more often than not in my days in the lab decades ago. For teaching labs, the rust ratio seemed to grow even higher. But it doesn’t need to be that way—especially with fume hoods made of polypropylene. Plus, this material provides other benefits. Let’s explore some of those polypropylene-related features.
The rust-resistance makes up one facet of a bigger overall benefit of this form of fume hood construction, which is durability. A fume hood’s sturdiness, however, depends on more than just the general kind of materials being used. It needs to be material with the right specifications and manufactured in the right way.
As an example, consider the FumeGard NU-156 Vertical Laminar Airflow Fume Hood from NuAire (Plymouth, MN). It is manufactured with ½-inch stress-relieved polypropylene, and it is all-seam-welded. Even the work surface consists of ½-inch polypropylene. As described by NuAire: “Polypropylene’s overall solvent and acid resistance make it an excellent choice for use in high-acid environments.”
Consequently, polypropylene fume hoods make the best choice in many industrial applications.
Setting the standards
For applications in industry and otherwise, a fume hood should meet the key standards. No matter what material is used to build a fume hood, meeting the right standards is a must. For instance, Knutson Ventilation (Minneapolis, MN) performed independent tests that showed that the FumeGard NU-156 meets the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers Standard 110-1995, which provides a method of testing the performance of a laboratory fume hood. The tests showed that the as-manufactured performance of this hood was as good or better than the detection limit of the instrument used to measure any escaping air, even with the sash height at 10 inches. As NuAire concluded from that test: “Users can be certain of its personnel protection properties.”
In many cases, the standards that matter the most are how a fume hood meets the needs of a specific lab. So, NuAire offers various polypropylene-based hoods. In addition to the FumeGard NU-156, scientists can consider the FumeGard 162 Conventional Corrosive-Resistant Polypropylene Fume Hood. NuAire notes that this hood is “designed to capture, contain, and exhaust fumes, gases, vapors, mists, aerosols, and particulate matter generated within the hood interior.”
There’s also the FumeGard 164 By-Pass Polypropylene Fume Hood. NuAire recommends this hood for use “in high acid environments, trace metal analysis, materials analysis, toxicology, semiconductor development, prototype/production and/or etching/plating operations.”
Depending on the application, the construction of the sash must also be considered. As an example, the FumeGard 164’s sash consists of ¼-inch Lexan, which receives a hard coat that makes it chemical- and abrasion-resistant.
The place where a fume hood is used and what will be used in it play fundamental roles in making the best choice of material. For a strong and chemical-resistant hood that can stand up to years of use in tough environments, polypropylene makes a great choice. Even then, it’s not just the kind of material, but the way that it’s put together. Like anything else in a lab, a fume hood is only as good as its weakest part.
Mike May is a freelance writer and editor living in Texas. He can be reached at [email protected]