Both laser particle counters and microbial air samplers are critical tools used for determining the quality of the air in clean room and other environments, as well as compressed air and gas systems. But the two pieces of air sampling equipment have very different methods of operation, and offer different environmental data for the user. For this reason, most critical environments require the combined use of the two types of devices to assess the status of those environments, or systems.
To better understand why you need both devices for effective air sampling in your facilities, here’s a brief overview of what makes them similar and different:
Laser particle counters (LPCs) allow for a total count of the particulates in a given air volume of both ambient air and compressed air and gasses. The total count given includes both viable and non-viable (microbes) particulates, but does not differentiate between the two sources. LPCs also categorize by size, with many common particle counters offering particle channel sizing from 0.3 to >15 micron particle sizes. LPCs also offer a variety of sample rates, ranging from 0.1 liters per minute (LPM) to 100 LPM. Microbial air samplers, on the other hand, asses the viable, or microbial particulates, in the air, not the raw total particulates.
There’s also a big difference in terms of time to result. Laser particle counters can deliver results almost instantly, while microbial air samplers require two to seven days of incubation time before a result can be delivered. LPCs help cover the gap in time while you are waiting on results from the microbial air samples, since they immediately offer results on the total load of particulates in your environment. If trended over time, these results can quickly tell you if your environment, or system is in a normal state of control and within appropriate limits for operations to occur (e.g., HVAC system is operating correctly, equipment is not malfunctioning and shedding unwanted materials, etc.)
There are quite a few similarities shared between many popular laser particle counters and EMTEK’s V100 Controller, which operates its’ microbial air samplers (e.g., R2S, RAS, and RCG). Most 1 CFM (28.3 LPM) to 100 LPM Portable LPC’s and the V100 Controller, provide vacuum to a remote sampling device (probe, or air sampler), allowing for remote monitoring of critical areas, such as ISO 5 Filling Lines, Isolators, etc.. This minimizes risk of contaminating that environment, and allows for closer placement of the probe, or air sampler to the critical sampling location (e.g., by filling needles, stopper bowl, capping station, etc.), while the controller/vacuum source can be well outside of the critical zone. Additionally, the EMTEK V100 Controller offers similar flow rates to the most popular LPCs on the market, with flow rates of 28.3, 50, and 100 LPM, allowing for the collection of the same sample volume, in the same time period, as the LPCs.
EMTEK has also assured their devices offer plenty of flexibility in terms of programmed collection times, and onboard options. As with most popular LPCs, EMTEK’s V100 controller, along with the various sampling head options (the R2S, RAS, and RCG), allows for substantial programmability with user specified sample delay, sample run, and sample hold times, as well as control of total sample volume or time. Additionally, as is common with LPCs, an on-board thermal paper/label printer is included to output all the key sample parameters, that may be affixed to your test media, or attached to your sampling documents, for easier data transfer, and significantly better data traceability when compared to other microbial air samplers.
As required by most firms, and regulatory agencies, a complete air sampling program includes both viable (microbial) and non-viable (total particulate) test equipment to monitor and control your critical environments, or systems. Having compatible monitoring devices, which have similar programmable collection functions, flow rates, etc., substantially simplifies your sampling plan with great gains in efficiency, allows you to keep proper environmental control, and meet regulatory guidance.
For more information please visit www.emtekair.com.