Laboratories play a crucial role in scientific research and innovation, yet they often consume significant amounts of energy and resources. One key contributor to this consumption is the ventilation system, particularly fume cupboards, which are essential for maintaining safe working environments by removing hazardous fumes

Traditional Ducted Fume Cupboards exhaust large volumes of conditioned air, leading to energy inefficiencies and increased carbon footprints. In response to these challenges, the adoption of Recirculating Fume Cupboards is a sustainable solution revolutionising laboratory practice.

Understanding Recirculating Fume Cupboards

Instead of expelling air directly outside, Recirculating Fume Cupboards capture and filter air contaminants before returning the purified air back into the laboratory. This closed-loop system reduces the need for continuous intake of conditioned air from the building’s HVAC system, minimising energy consumption.

Key Components and Operation

Recirculating Fume Cupboards feature advanced filtration systems comprising activated carbon filters, adsorbing volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and other chemical contaminants and high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, trapping particles and aerosols. The filtered air undergoes rigorous purification processes, ensuring that it meets safety standards before being reintroduced into the laboratory environment.

Benefits of Recirculating Fume Cupboards

  •   Energy Efficiency: By recirculating air instead of exhausting it, these fume cupboards significantly reduce the demand on HVAC systems, leading to substantial energy savings. Laboratory facilities can achieve lower utility costs and minimise their environmental impact by adopting this energy-efficient solution.
  • Cost Savings: Recirculating Fume Cupboards eliminate the need for complex ducting systems and ongoing maintenance associated with traditional fume cupboards. Laboratories can redirect funds previously allocated for ductwork installation and maintenance towards research endeavours or other sustainability initiatives.
  • Enhanced Safety: The advanced filtration systems of Recirculating Fume Cupboards ensure a high level of air purification, effectively removing harmful contaminants from laboratory environments. This contributes to improved safety conditions for researchers, protecting health and well-being.
  • Flexibility and Mobility: Unlike ducted fume cupboards, recirculating units are not constrained by building infrastructure requirements. Laboratories have the flexibility to install these cupboards in various locations without extensive renovations, promoting adaptability and space optimization.
  • Sustainability: By reducing energy consumption and minimising waste, Recirculating Fume Cupboards align with sustainability goals and promote environmentally responsible laboratory practices. Laboratories demonstrate their commitment to reducing carbon emissions and preserving natural resources by adopting these innovative solutions.
  • Smart Monitoring and Control Systems: Integration of sensors and intelligent control systems enables real-time monitoring of air quality parameters within laboratory environments. Smart fume cupboards can adjust airflow rates and filtration settings dynamically, optimising energy efficiency while maintaining safety standards.

Challenges and Considerations

While Recirculating Fume Cupboards offer numerous benefits, certain challenges and considerations warrant attention:

  • Filtration Efficiency: The effectiveness of recirculating fume cupboards depends on the performance of filtration systems. Regular maintenance and filter replacement are essential and prevent contaminants from escaping into the laboratory environment.
  • Compatibility with Chemicals: Laboratories must assess the compatibility of Recirculating Fume Cupboards with the chemicals and substances used in their research activities. Certain compounds may require specialised filtration or additional safety measures to maintain containment and protect researchers.

Case Study

Monmouth Scientific’s Recirculating Fume Cupboard plays

a crucial role in restoration and preservation of historic aerial

photograph collection.

The Client:

The National Collection of Aerial Photography (NCAP) is one of the largest collections of aerial imagery in the world, containing tens of millions of aerial images featuring historic events and places around the world.

Key Objectives:

It is the role of NCAP to collect and secure the future of these records, both digital and physical, to preserve them for generations to come.

After experiencing significant handling and conservation challenges, Digital Imaging Manager; Alan Potts approached Monmouth Scientific in search of a solution to guarantee a highly clean environment in which the NCAP team can safely preserve the collection.

Our Solution:

When the National Collection of Aerial Photography moved into dedicated, state-of-the-art collections care and digitisation facility in Edinburgh, space was provided to accommodate the processes needed to deal with these key challenges.

Our experienced team identified the Recirculating Fume Cupboard as the ideal solution to meet the needs of the team, enabling the Technicians to work safely and effectively.

The age and past storage conditions of the archive mean that some items have suffered degradation over time. For the 6.5 million photographic prints this manifests as mould, which must be safely removed before a digital replication can be created. This work can only safely be undertaken in a Recirculating Fume Cupboard, in combination with suitable PPE.

The film archive suffers from a very different issue. The acetate base of the film can autocatalytically degrade and produce acetic acid. Whilst not dangerous, the smell is unpleasant and can lead to irritation through prolonged exposure. Preparing and digitising the film within a Recirculating Fume Cupboard mitigates this issue and creates a healthier workspace for all the staff.

The Circulaire® CTPro1800 requires no ducting to an external environment and could be installed anywhere within the workspace. Airflow is guided towards the interior to effectively trap vapours at source and containing them within the controlled working area and Activated Carbon filters, expelling clean air back into the laboratory.

Consuming minimal energy and delivering optimal performance, our recirculating technology also leads to significant cost savings and contributes to a greener and more sustainable laboratory environment.

Combined with the new facility, workflow and output has been transformed for the NCAP with active programmes now dealing with these critical conservation issues as a priority.

What they said:

– Alan Potts, Digital Imaging Manager

– Historic Environmental Scotland | National Collection of Aerial Photography

“We had no knowledge of Recirculating Fume Cupboards within the team prior to this, so relied on Monmouth Scientific to guide us through the process of identifying and defining our risks and selecting the most appropriate equipment for the job.

Our unique application has required some bespoke solutions and Monmouth Scientific have been a great partner in engineering and building cabinets that fit our needs.

Having the correct equipment and practices means that The National Collection of Aerial Photography can now move ahead with the monumental task of preserving this unique record of world events as seen from above, for future generations.”

Future Directions and Innovations

The adoption of recirculating fume cupboards represents a significant step towards sustainable laboratory practices. As technology continues to advance, future innovations may further enhance the efficiency and performance of these systems.

Research and development efforts are focused on improving filtration efficiency and expanding the range of contaminants that can be effectively removed by recirculating fume cupboards. Nanotechnology and molecular sieve materials hold promise for enhancing filtration capabilities and addressing emerging challenges.

Recirculating fume cupboards offer a sustainable solution for laboratories seeking to reduce energy consumption, enhance safety, and minimize environmental impact. By adopting these innovative systems, laboratories can achieve significant cost savings, improve operational efficiency, and demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. As the scientific community continues to prioritize environmental stewardship, recirculating fume cupboards will play an increasingly integral role in shaping the future of laboratory practices worldwide.

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