Open University Uranium-Series laboratory  
Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Open University, Milton Keynes, UK

OUUSL chemistry laboratory


OUUSL chemistry laboratory is part of a much larger set of labs that have been completely refurbished during 2000-2002.

The main aims of this refurbishment were to divide the laboratory space into ever-cleaner subspaces and to provide a metal-free environment. The actual chemistry is carried out in acrylic containment boxes with horizontal (left to right) laminar airflow. The ‘traffic zone’ in front of the boxes has its own laminar flow air supply ceiling and extraction at floor level. It is separate from the ‘service zone’ with the duct-and pipe work, and separate from the ‘clean power supply zones’, each with their own ventilation. Access from the rest of the building is through two ‘air locks’.
clean room cross section
Schematic cross section of a clean room illustrating laminar air flow patterns
Acrylic containment boxes

Horizontal laminar flow work-boxes are used for clean chemistry procedures. HEPA-filtered air enters on the left of the box, through a fabric membrane, and is extracted on the right through a second fabric membrane. The fabric is about 85% transparent to air and there is a small build-up of pressure to equalise the flow over the whole of the fabric area, with a resultant flow of ca. 15 cm/sec, across the box. The laminar flow ensures that there are no ‘dead volumes’ in the box and the air speed is sufficient to remove vapours from acid evaporations. Some boxes have a port-hole in the fabric membrane on the extraction side to allow a faster air flow during fast evaporations. The fabric at both sides has a double layer in the main part but single at the front of the box. The laminar flow at the front of the box is thus slightly faster than in the main area (forming an air curtain, ca. 17 cm/sec), which discourages the entry of particles into the box, and prevents noxious fumes, generated by heating processes, from leaving the box, even with the doors open.

Acryllic workstation
Schematic cross section of a Picotrace laminar flow workstation
Airflow patterns are very fragile and to maintain containment requires that there is no air pressure differential between the containment box and the traffic zone. Air is extracted at floor level and through the under-bench units.
The base of the workbox is made of polypropylene. Trespa Toplab Plus under-bench units provide storage for lab items.
The clean room has been constructed by Picotrace to a jointly-developed design. Picotrace hold patents on the design of many components of the cleanroom
Other facilities
The refurbishment project also included new Air Handling Units with air conditioning and Class EU XIV HEPA filters, ‘non interruptable’ mains power supply with transient elimination to the instruments, ‘ring main’ Millipore reverse osmosis water supply and local Milli-Q polishers and a new balance room.
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© Peter van Calsteren
Last updated: 23 December, 2011 11:31
December 23, 2011 11:31December 23, 2011 11:31