A laboratory can be a very dangerous place. Two commonly utilized substances posing their own safety and detection challenges in a lab are Carbon Dioxide (CO₂) and Oxygen (O₂). Both of these gasses have been classified as ‘substances hazardous to health’ and any type of exposure requires the installation of gas monitors to ensure worker safety and compliance with exposure limits.
CO₂ & O₂ Monitoring: The Importance of Monitoring Gasses
It would be difficult to show compliance with OSHA requirements if you are not monitoring the environment for leaks. An OSHA Hazard Information Bulletin recommends that organizations “develop and implement a procedure to monitor the atmosphere for CO₂ and provide local ventilation where levels may exceed the PEL” (Permissible Exposure Limits).
Why is CO₂ monitoring important?
Carbon Dioxide is released during combustion and by decomposition of organic matter. It is faintly acid-tasting, not-flammable and can be a silent killer since it is odorless and colorless, and therefore hard to detect.
- CO₂ can increase very quickly in places that have poor ventilation. In a 250 sq. ft. room, it takes only 45 minutes for CO₂ levels to increase by 50%.
- Elevated CO₂ levels directly affect human cognition as found in a study from the Harvard School of Public Health.
- Monitoring CO₂ levels is an important part of managing Sick Building Syndrome and requires continual, online gas analysis with highly sensitive detectors as sub-1000 ppm concentrations of Carbon Dioxide.
- Monitoring CO₂ can help with energy efficiency. Since room occupancy is often intermittent and unpredictable, over-ventilation can cause energy inefficiencies.
A recent ASHRAE research project: “Implementation of RP-1547 CO₂-based Demand Controlled Ventilation for Multiple Zone HVAC Systems in Direct Digital Control Systems”, shows that measuring and implementing a Demand Controlled Ventilation can save from 5% to 80% energy costs.
Why is O₂ monitoring important?
When a lab is storing cryogenic gasses such as Nitrogen, Helium, Argon, and Carbon Dioxide, Oxygen monitors are used for creating a safe work environment for employees. Some states, such as NY, mandates the installation of an Oxygen monitor for any area that uses more than 60 gallons as per the Certificate of Fitness for Supervision of Storage, Handling and Use of Commercial Cryogenic Systems (G-79).
When do you measure O₂?
- When Oxygen levels can get too low
Inert gasses - neon, argon, helium as well as nitrogen are nonreactive and used as carrier gasses. If not monitored adequately, they can cause a drop in Oxygen. Less than a 10% O₂ drop is enough to cause loss of consciousness. Higher percentage drops in O₂ levels can cause fatalities, such as in the Georgia Sperm Bank tragedy in 2017.
- When Oxygen levels can get too high
In some procedures such as gas production or gas blending enriched Oxygen is often used. This can cause a potential fire risk due to increases in the flammability of combustibles in the area. High levels of Enriched Oxygen are also toxic and can cause nerve and brain damage.
An O₂ gas detector will provide audio and visual cues when levels of Oxygen fall below or rise beyond an acceptable level. This will give you time to vacate the laboratory before any dangerous side effects can take hold or alternatively, trigger a ventilation system or shut down the supply of inert gasses/nitrogen.
XiltriX O₂ monitoring functionality provides audio and visual cues when levels of Oxygen fall below or rise too high, and our alarm sequence will send real-time notifications allowing time to vacate the lab in case of an emergency.
Where do you measure CO₂ concentration?
CO₂ concentration in Incubators
When storing biological samples, CO₂ levels are kept at 5% to ensure optimal growth conditions for the specimens. Monitoring CO₂ levels is important here as it is not possible to cultivate cells if the CO₂ levels are inaccurate.
CO₂ concentration in Indoor Air
Monitoring the CO₂ concentration in order to keep it at the recommended levels of below 1,000 parts per million (ppm) is important. Maintaining an optimal air quality ensures the well-being of employees working in that space, prevents impairment and dysfunction, and reduces energy costs.
CO₂ concentration in Greenhouses
CO₂ is used as a fertilizer to optimize yield in greenhouses by increasing the CO₂ concentration above the ambient average of 400 ppm. Excessive CO₂ use can increase costs without any benefit, therefore closely monitoring CO₂ is important.
XiltriX system has a wide range of CO₂ measurement functionalities, ideal for specific applications and without frequent calibration needs.
Here at XiltriX, we understand laboratory monitoring is protecting more than just assets. Monitoring saves lives. This is why XiltriX uses a variety of robust sensors and alarms, specific to the application and needs of the facility. In an incubator setting, real-time alarms will be digitally sent to individuals who are responsible for the equipment. In addition to digital alarms, for room conditions with attributes directly related to safety, XiltriX will also implement visual and auditory alarms to alert staff in emergency situations. This, in turn, allows staff to immediately assess the issue and take action to ensure safety.
There are many CO₂ sensors on the market, but two of the most common types are chemical or optical sensors. In the case of XiltriX, an infrared sensor is used for CO₂ due to its stability, its high selectivity to the measured gas, and its accuracy. XiltriX uses industrial-grade sensors that are fully calibrated and compensate for both temperature and humidity. Additionally, these sensors have a long lifetime as well as the ability to withstand dust, high humidity, most chemicals, high-temperature clean cycles, and other harsh conditions.
Low O₂ sensors are often implemented in areas where there is a potential of Oxygen depletion. The XiltriX sensor uses a novel, fully calibrated fluorescence-based gas sensor, which compensates for temperature as well as having excellent repeatability and a lifetime of greater than five years. XiltriX will always install auditory and visual alarms where safety is a concern.
The XiltriX real-time monitoring platform allows facilities to prevent, rather than remediate, possible catastrophes. According to the University of Washington Liquid Nitrogen Report, an LN₂ storage tank with a leak can cause unsafe conditions in under 3 minutes and critical conditions in less than 8 minutes. Real-time monitoring will allow staff to take action immediately, preventing O₂ levels from depleting to critical concentrations.
Here are some examples of CO₂ & O₂ monitoring findings:
A. XiltriX system Monitoring CO₂ drops in one of two incubators
B. CO₂ depletion in an incubator after the tank emptied and the manifold failed to switch over to a full tank.
C. Monitoring that CO₂ and O₂ in an incubator correlate negatively to each other
When it comes to monitoring lab environments and equipment, it is imperative that a facility implements a real-time data acquisition system such as XiltriX, to closely monitor gas levels and provide immediate alarms for any deviation. XiltriX is a robust, real-time monitoring system that acts as a pulse on your laboratory infrastructure, tracking gas concentrations in rooms or equipment, temperature fluctuations, VOCs, and many other necessary parameters that need to be controlled in a lab.
To learn more, set up a time to speak with one of our monitoring experts: